Press Release

IACHR Releases Updated Report on the Impact of its Friendly Settlement Procedure

May 10, 2018

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Santo Domingo - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released today an updated report on the impact of its friendly settlement procedure, in the framework of its 168th Period of Sessions, which is taking place in the Dominican Republic. The purpose of this document is to report on results and constructive developments regarding best practice and on pending challenges concerning the negotiation and implementation of friendly settlements. To update this report, the IACHR examined 137 friendly settlements approved by the Commission between 1985 and December 2017, as well as materials gathered at two specialized meetings on the implementation of IACHR decisions, which were held on September 21 and December 5, 2017 at the IACHR’s headquarters.
The case and petition system provides for the option to voluntarily reach a friendly settlement at any stage in the assessment of a petition or case, as long as that settlement is based on respect for the human rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and other regional instruments for the protection of human rights. The friendly settlement procedure grants an opportunity to negotiate, on an equal footing, the terms for reparation of the effects of a rights violation and to resolve the matter in a non-adversarial way.

The report consists of four chapters and a conclusion. The four chapters present the evolution of this mechanism, the impact of the settlement implementation process, the pending challenges and best practice.

Chapter I of the report briefly introduces the background, the methodology and the structure of the document. Chapter II looks at the evolution of this mechanism, of the IACHR’s standards and practices since 1995 until the most recent reform of its Rules of Procedure in 2013, and finally current practices at the Commission regarding the friendly settlement process.

Chapter III assesses five methods for reparation established in friendly settlements. Section A deals with the restoration of the affected right, which in practice implies restoring liberty, repealing any legislation that fails to comply with the protection standards set by the American Convention on Human Rights, returning land and reinstating employees. Section B addresses measures for medical, psychological and social-welfare rehabilitation, aimed at improving the health and living standards of alleged victims of human rights violations. Section C of the report examines satisfaction linked to disclosing the truth, as a prerequisite to attain justice and restore victims’ memories. These measures include acknowledging responsibility and publicly admitting the events in question and searching for victims’ remains and handing them over to victims’ families. Section D looks at financial compensation measures, taken as a form of reparation for the effects of a human rights violation. Section E in Chapter III identifies measures for non-repetition, which have helped to change the structural situations that led to the petition filed before the IACHR.

Chapter IV of the report lists several pending challenges and best practices regarding the negotiation and implementation of friendly settlements. Those challenges include States’ lack of political will to fulfil the commitments they accept in friendly settlements; a lack of channels for permanent dialogue between the parties; a lack of inter-institutional articulation to implement reparation measures; a lack of clarity in several clauses, concerning concrete implementation procedures, measurement indicators and competent authorities; and a chronic breach of measures related to investigating, trying and punishing the people responsible for the events that led to the petition.

The Commission values the efforts of the system’s users concerning the deployment of the friendly settlement mechanism. Their constructive spirit when signing friendly settlements and complying with them has allowed many victims of human rights violations to obtain adequate reparation and many more to benefit from the implementation of essential measures to prevent similar violations in the future. At the same time, they have made it possible to adapt domestic legislation to the standards of the Inter-American human rights system and to integrate into the public agenda issues and instruments that are crucial to protect and promote human rights within OAS Member States.

“The Commission hopes this information will provide States and petitioners with guidelines regarding the characteristics and best practice developed in the framework of this procedure,” said the IACHR Executive Secretary, Paulo Abrão.

The report has been published with the support of the Spanish Fund for the OAS and is available on the Commission’s website.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 100/18