Message of the President of the IACtHR, Judge Nancy Hernández López, during the Inauguration of the 2024 Inter-American Judicial Year
I. Gratitude and acknowledgements on taking office as President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Inauguration of the 2024 Inter-American Judicial Year. I appreciate your presence in these emblematic surroundings and I greet those who are following the livestreaming of this ceremony , which marks the official launch of the judicial work of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights this year, on social networks. It represents a tradition instituted as an act of transparency, dialogue and accountability in relation to the region.
First, I would like to express my profound gratitude to my colleagues, the Judges of the Court, for the confidence they have placed in me to preside over this institution during the next two years. I assume this honor with commitment and responsibility.
Moreover, I would like to add that it gives me great pleasure to be on the Board with the distinguished Brazilian jurist, Rodrigo Mudrovitsch. Since he assumed his post as judge, he has demonstrated an untiring commitment to promoting the strengthening of our institution in the region. I feel greatly supported and I am sincerely grateful to him for his constant collaboration and friendship.
It is also appropriate to recognize the outstanding work carried out by the outgoing Board of Directors of this honorable Tribunal.
I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding record of the Court’s outgoing Board. I wish to recognize the admirable work performed by Judge Ricardo C. Pérez Manrique as President, and by Judge Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot as Vice President. With their dedication and expertise, they have been central to the organization of our Court’s workload, making significant progress in critical areas such as the Court’s communication policies, and training and outreach activities. Their valuable efforts have made an important contribution to the institutional structure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
During this ceremony, it is also necessary to acknowledge the important contribution made by my colleagues, Judges Humberto Antonio Sierra Porto, Verónica Gómez and Patricia Pérez Goldberg, who, with their profound commitment and intellectual and academic strength have enhanced the quality of our work. In addition, I include the staff of the Inter-American Court in these acknowledgements. Their unwavering dedication and commitment to human rights make all the difference and enable our work as Judges.
I wish to underline that I assume this honorable appointment with deep pride in my Costa Rican roots. I am proud to have been born in a country that has opted for development through the strength of the law rather than the power of weapons; a country founded on the rule of Law and its public policies, and the protection of freedom, human rights and justice, essential elements for stability and social peace.
As any nation, Costa Rica faces challenges in perfecting its democratic ideals; however, its resolve in this regard is solid and persistent. Consequently, I am proud to announce that, in 2023, Costa Rica achieved 100% compliance with the Court’s Judgements. This is very important and should be emphasized because it is never easy to comply with these Judgments, owing to their structural and transformative nature.
Mr. President of Costa Rica, on behalf of the Inter-American Court, please accept our recognition of the exemplary commitment of the Costa Rican State to the principles of the American Convention. A recognition that I extend to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic and his staff. We are also grateful to Costa Rica, as our host State, for always ensuring the appropriate conditions for the functioning of this Court since its inception.
It is evident that Costa Rica’s commitment to peace is not only a regional example, but also a reminder that an approach based on human rights and peaceful conflict resolution is fundamental to achieve sustainable development.II. Accountability in relation to the Inter-American Court’s work during 2023
With regard to accountability, we must highlight several elements that illustrate the work of the Court over the last period. However, on this occasion, I wish to place more emphasis on some reflections on the regional context, and present and future challenges. I will reserve more comprehensive details concerning all the work of the Court for the annual report to be presented to the OAS General Assembly next June, in compliance with the mandate established by the American Convention, and which will evidently be made available on the Court’s website.
With regard to management of our workload, I am pleased to announce that, on analyzing the Court’s performance statistics for 2023, this was the year with the highest jurisdictional output. Over the years, it is possible to observe an upwards trend in the number of Judgments handed down, and there has also been a significant increase in actions undertaken away from the Court’s seat in other States in the region, either to hold sessions or to conduct on-site procedures.
The significant efforts made by the Court in 2023 through its policies of outreach, transparency, communication and training addressed at the whole region should also be stressed. The indicators reflect the Inter-American Court’s continuing commitment to excellence, transparency, active participation, and the constant improvement of its judicial tasks.
For example, over the past year, the Court held nine (9) Regular Sessions, two of them away from its seat, thanks to the hospitality of Chile and Colombia, which received the Court so that it could hold public hearings in several cases, as well as hearings on Monitoring Compliance with Judgments. In addition, on-site judicial procedures were conducted in Honduras and Brazil, with a total of four visits to different countries, and this provided us with direct knowledge of the situation in different States in relation to cases before the Court. These included a visit to the Amazonian territory of the Yanomami in Brazil to monitor compliance with Provisional Measures, and to Brasilia to monitor compliance with Judgments. I wish to thank the Brazilian Government for its cooperation and willingness to address the problems faced by the Yanomami indigenous people. This case illustrates the complementarity and synergy between the Inter-American System and the efforts of the States, united in our shared mission to reinforce justice and the protection of fundamental rights.
It is also possible to note an increase in compliance with Judgments and in acknowledgement of international responsibility by the States over the past period. Seven cases were archived due to full compliance with Judgment by the respective State, and the Court declared partial or total compliance with 128 reparations. There has also been an increase in the number of cases in which States have accepted their international responsibility totally or in part.
At first sight, this dynamic can be interpreted as a clearer commitment to compliance with judgment by the States. As is well known, the structural nature of most of these judgments is extremely complex as they are designed to have a significant impact. Consequently, their implementation should be assessed by parameters other than the numerical standards used to measure the performance of domestic judgments in inter-party cases, considering other aspects such as their resonance and transformative vocation. It is essential to recognize that many of the cases submitted to the Court arise from ancient and deep-rooted structural problems; for example, in cases related to the rights of Indigenous and Tribal peoples. Rooting out these problems requires long-term actions and commitments by States.
As many of you know, the Court emphasizes reparations that go beyond financial obligations and are based on integral or full reparation. This is one of the significant contributions to international law made by the Inter-American Court, and it is characterized by comprehensive measures that require investigation of the facts, measures of satisfaction and, above all, guarantees of non-repetition that include legislative and constitutional amendments, and the design and implementation of public policies.
This integral and long-term approach is crucial to address and resolve the structural challenges that underlie the cases submitted to the Court. Therefore, we welcome the increase in the number of cases archived due to full compliance, and in the number of cases in which there has been partial compliance; moreover, the number of cases in which States have voluntarily acknowledged their international responsibility is significant. All this reveals the firm resolve of the majority of States in the region in their commitment to the American Convention and its values.
III. The Inter-American Court’s Contributions to the region
It is important to remember that the Inter-American Court began operating in 1979, in an extremely adverse context, and in a region beset by dictatorial regimes.
By the standards it developed during those first years, the Court acted as a catalyst making a significant contribution to the transition from dictatorships to democracies. With the Cold War as a backdrop, at a time of dictatorships in which any dissent could lead to death, this Court was a pioneer in developing the elements and characteristics of the crime of forced disappearance. Furthermore, it heard cases related to extrajudicial executions, torture, excessive use of force, incompatibility of amnesty laws, due process, judicial protection, and access to justice, among other legal issues that were relevant in the process of dismantling the region’s dictatorships.
Over time, the Court has also had a significant impact through cases related to violations of the rights of indigenous peoples, in which considerable progress has been verified. For example, in relation to the right to property, ordered by the Court, States have implemented measures to title hundreds of hectares of communal lands, and agreements to delimit extensive territories and to guarantee access to water, among other actions. These involve historical debts settled with the indigenous and tribal peoples, even though much remains to be done.
Regarding the strengthening of democracy, the Court has developed wide-ranging standards concerning freedom of thought and expression, and of the press. It has called attention to and protected vulnerable individuals and groups, establishing relevant standards for children, adolescents, women, the elderly, Indigenous and Tribal peoples, people with disabilities, Afro-descendants, the LGBTI community, prisoners, the forcibly displaced, journalists, and people living in poverty.
In the area of women’s rights, the Court has established standards on due diligence in the investigation of cases of violence, using an appropriate gender perspective, among other matters, and has ruled on innovative issues such as obstetric violence. Unfortunately, I must admit that, despite the progress made in relation to gender-based violence, there have been alarming setbacks in the region.
The Court has also firmly insisted on the importance of maintaining judicial independence as a cornerstone of democracy in cases of unjustified removal of judges or justices from high courts. It has recognized the relevance of economic, social and cultural rights in the context of the defense of human rights. It has also developed important precedents concerning political rights and the freedom of expression of opposition political parties, and heard cases related to State responsibility for the repression and extermination of people based on their political ideology. It has established standards for due process, including those necessary to ensure that pre-trial detention is legitimate. The Court has contributed to the legal definition of conducts that constitute gross human rights violations, the restriction of the military criminal jurisdiction from intervening in gross human rights violations, and protection of the right to appeal a criminal conviction as an integral part of due process of law. It has established and is still working on standards for the relationship between human rights and the environment.
These and other significant contributions of case law during its 45 years of existence reveal the immense diversity of human rights issues that afflict the region. However, some issues also have a global impact; for example, recent matters submitted to the Court in relation to the climate emergency, the right to care, and the use of weapons; three topics submitted in requests for Advisory Opinions, whose relevance transcends the borders of the Americas.
The United Mexican State have presented a Request for an Advisory Opinion on business activities and their effects on human rights for the Court to refer to matters such as the absence of due diligence, and negligent and/or intentional practices by private companies related to the arms industry, which facilitate the illegal trafficking of weapons and their indiscriminate availability in society. Argentina has presented a Request for an Advisory Opinion for the Court to determine the meaning and scope of the right to care as a human right, as well as its interrelationship with other rights. Chile and Colombia have submitted a Request for an Advisory Opinion on the climate emergency and human rights. Its purpose is to determine the scope of State obligations, in their individual and collective dimension, to respond to the climate emergency within the framework of International Human Rights Law, taking into account the differentiated effects of this emergency on people in different regions, population groups, nature, and human survival on our planet. I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that the Court is holding two of the public hearings related to the latter Advisory Opinion in Barbados and Brazil, thanks to the collaboration of these two States, to learn, on-site, about the specific impact of this phenomenon in the Caribbean region and in Amazonia.
The problems examined in these Advisory Opinions do not only affect the region; rather, they are global in nature. The Court is aware of this and, within its terms of reference, will try to provide answers to these urgent questions. All the foregoing judicial activities, Provisional Measures, Contentious Cases, on-site visits, Monitoring Compliance, and Advisory Opinions, reflected in the different realities that the Court addresses, complement its work of regional outreach involving training, promotion and academic production, in response to the increasing demand from public officials, civil society and academia with regard to information on, and the strengthening of, the Inter-American System. In this area, the creation of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Judicial Training Center during the presidency of Judge Ricardo C. Pérez Manrique should be highlighted, together with the establishment of the Judicial Channel, Corte TV.
IV. Democracy and human rights
Despite the Court’s transcendental impact over these past decades, and the significant efforts made by the States to strengthen democracy, our region faces many challenges.
The desire persists to be able to express our differences of opinion without fear of assassination, torture or disappearance. We still aspire to an environment in which the condition of being a woman, skin color, sexual orientation, financial situation, age, disability or other characteristics do not define access to opportunities. We aspire to being a region in which it is possible to choose whether or not to practice a religion in exercise of freedom of thought, and where there is respect for those who do practice a religion and, especially, priests who serve their fellowmen, as well as human rights defenders who assist the weakest and most vulnerable.
A region in which the free and healthy discussion of ideas prevails, rather than oppression, banishment, and deprivation of nationality, death, or prison for the slightest dissent. Let us imagine a region in which every individual is free to follow his dreams and goals, without being restricted by unjust prejudices or discriminatory barriers.
We know that, in most countries, the struggle continues to ensure respect for the dignity of all, especially the vulnerable. This aspiration has been a bond that unites us in the hope for a different future, where fundamental values such as freedom and security can coexist without being seen as obstacles to development. We must return to the words of the Convention, which establish that its intention is to consolidate in our hemisphere “a system of personal liberty.” Human rights are the key to that comprehensive protection of freedom.
Unfortunately, in some countries there is institutionalized corruption, oppression, violence and an alliance with organized crime at the expense of the population. The intense activity of the Inter-American System as a whole, its history and trajectory reveal that, in most countries of the region, a permanent struggle exists in order not to give up on development that accords priority to justice, democracy and respect for human rights. Wherever this desire and hope exists, that is where the American Convention on Human Rights resides. This is the raison d’être of the Inter-American System
I issue a strong appeal not to dissimulate the violence experienced by several countries in the region and not to forget the victims. Here, in the presence of the region’s Diplomatic corps, I urge its members to maintain alive the voice of the political prisoners of Nicaragua who include students, peasant farmers, members of indigenous peoples, priests, bishops, and dissidents in general.
I believe that the region’s States have an ethical and moral responsibility to be firm in the face of these atrocities. This Court has fulfilled its role and has acted firmly in the exercise of its competencies, but the collective force and action of the international community is required to achieve its objective; in particular, the support of the region whose growth and development on the basis of human rights we defend.
The message must be clear: power should be used to serve, not to oppress.V. Crucial challenges
Today, we also face other significant challenges: climate change and unregulated artificial intelligence.
We are witnessing extreme climate events. In recent days, I have been following events in Colombia in relation to the forest fires resulting from the El Niño phenomenon. This is only one of many natural disasters that impact the biodiversity of the Americas, which is some of the richest in the world. Forced migration, changes in weather patterns, direct effects on indigenous and tribal peoples and on isolated populations are only some of the immediate effects we can see on a daily basis as a result of the harm caused to the planet. The urgency of addressing the climate emergency is undeniable; it is a fight for the survival of our common home.
In addition, artificial intelligence is emerging as a powerful force for progress; however, at the same time, it is potentially dangerous. As we advance towards a world that is increasingly automated and interconnected, we must address the development of this technology wisely and cautiously. For the first time in the history of humanity, and in the absence of any relevant regulation, a non-human intelligence exists with the ability to take decisions in a way that is completely autonomous and with the capacity to affect all humanity, and this gives rise to unprecedented security and ethical challenges.
Moreover, in the midst of this uncertainty – to which we must add the increase of war – our region also has to deal with its own challenges that are a drag on development. It appears that ours will be the region with the lowest economic growth in the coming years. In addition, we suffer from a democratic regression that threatens to erase centuries of progress and sacrifice, abandoning the defense of fundamental values of coexistence such as the division of powers, the rule of law and democracy.
We are also faced with the scourge of drug-trafficking that corrupts our social pact and is one of the worst existing threats to human rights and democracy.
Sincerely, I do not believe that we have the capacity to address these challenges from the standpoint of individual States and, in particular, I do not believe that they can be resolved outside the framework of international law and multilateralism. Evidently, nor do I believe that, added to the aforementioned challenges, we can live without the basic rights of coexistence which are essentially those known as human rights, or by weakening the rule of law. And, amidst all this convulsion that we face today, apart from the previously mentioned threats, there is a context of the erosion of western democracies that threatens to undermine the very foundations of our fundamental principles and freedoms.VI. Myths about the work of the Inter-American Court
Over recent decades, these new currents have propagated a series of myths and false reports to promote or to justify radical measures that defy the established legal order framework. In this worrying context, we are experiencing a frontal attack against human rights, jeopardizing the basic guarantees that protect our dignity and freedom. In the course of this attack, a campaign of disinformation has been disseminated to delegitimize the cause of human rights and the work of the courts and tribunals, and the checks and balances on the exercise of power, both within States and also within the International Agencies that work towards these ideals. In this section of my intervention, I wish to refer to some of these myths and address the questions raised in relation to the Court.
First myth: there is a dichotomy between security and freedom
Without any doubt, terrorism, organized crime and drug-trafficking are phenomena that threaten to destroy our social pact. The Inter-American Court is not isolated from the troubles of the region. We share the concerns of the families and we condemn the abhorrent crimes committed by illegal groups. In its case law, the Court has clearly affirmed the authority of States to guarantee the security of their people. It is totally legitimate for the State to confront, directly and promptly, those who act outside the law. Nevertheless, measures that limit rights must be proportionate and not violate human rights. It is only the moral superiority of the Rule of Law that can counter such cases.
The State cannot dirty its hands, or act as a common criminal. History has numerous examples of how such abuses have led to humanity’s darkest hours. Democracy provides us with sufficient legal tools to address the stark realities of crime. For example, in states of emergency, the American Convention allows certain rights to be suspended in specific and exceptional situations.
The Court has analyzed and issued specific parameters for action in these exceptional situations. Therefore, it is false that the Court does not seek to ensure the safety of the individual. To the contrary, it has established strong guidelines to ensure that States guarantee the well-being of their subjects without harming their fundamental rights. Freedom and security are not conflicting values; we do not have to choose one or the other; rather, they are mutually necessary. There are sufficient tools within the framework of the rule of law and democracy to be able to balance these two essential values.
Second myth: Human rights only seek to favor criminals
We frequently hear statements such as: Where are the human rights of the victims of crime? Evidently, we appreciate the concern that arises from this disinformation. First, we should understand that the Court does not examine individual responsibilities. We are not a Criminal Court and, therefore, we do not determine the responsibilities of individuals who fail to comply with the law. We examine the responsibility of the State in relation to its compliance with the obligations assumed under the treaty that gave birth to the Court: the American Convention. A treaty that the States sovereignly undertook to abide by. Thus, the Court hears those abuses or violations of the rights recognized in thisTreaty.
Historically, at a time when systematic abuses were committed by dictatorial governments, it was the Court that curbed practices such as torture, extrajudicial execution and forced disappearance. The Court’s image should not be defiled because it sounds the alarm in cases where individuals have not received a fair trial – when there are “faceless judges” or in the presence of corruption, torture, bias and lack of independence.
Moreover, most of the cases heard by the Court do not relate to such matters. Most of the cases this Court hears relate to victims who have been stripped of their humanity. A girl child victim of rape who has to describe the event over and over again and, despite this, is not believed (VRP v. Nicaragua). The massacre of an indigenous community (massacres such as Los Dos Erres v. Guatemala). An elderly person who is denied access to an intensive care unit because “why give an elderly person something that can help a younger person” (Poblete Vilches et al. v. Chile). Or a case such as that of Martina, a child who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe and progressive and potentially lethal disease, who was left unprotected by the insurance company (Vera Rojas et al. v. Chile). All these are cases are real, and these are the victims of the cases that the Court hears.
The next time you hear that the Inter-American Court is a court that defends criminals, you should read the heartrending statements of the hundreds of victims in the majority of the cases who have not received prompt protection in the domestic sphere.
Third myth: The Inter-American Court is funded by specific interests and to favor a certain agenda
Many people affirm, without any evidence, that the Court receives funding from spurious interests in order to condition its rulings and its agenda. Here, I must emphatically declare that this is absolutely false.
The Inter-American Court does not receive contributions that are addressed at favoring specific issues or countries. I have often been concerned to hear voices indicating that the Court receives funding based on interests imposed by the donor, or that it is the donor that administers the Court’s agenda. This is absolutely false.
Contributions made outside the regular OAS budget are destined to institutional development. Our budget from the OAS provides 71.27% of the funds required for the Court to function. This funding is clearly insufficient.
Consequently, the Court has been obliged to seek supplementary funds under international cooperation projects or voluntary contributions from Member States. Such funds allow the Court to conduct on-site visits, offer training courses, hold hearings away from its seat, and facilitate psychological support during hearings, among other activities designed to protect the rights of those who take part in proceedings before the Inter-American Court. Such donations are never made by private individuals, non-governmental organizations, or companies. The Court provides a transparent report on its annual budget to the OAS and appears before the OAS Permanent Council and General Assembly in this regard. Also, in the case of the supplementary funds – which, I repeat, are public funds from cooperating States – specific reports are presented to those States. In future, the information on the Court’s funding and the credentials of those responsible for auding the Court’s funds will be included on a specific page of the Court’s website available to the public.
Fourth myth: Human rights are for other people
The statement: “Human rights are for others; they don’t concern us” reflects an erroneous and dangerous perspective that undermines the fundamental principles of human dignity and equality inherent in the idea of human rights. It is essential to understand that human rights are interconnected and interdependent.
The denial of certain rights to a group of individuals affects society as a whole directly or indirectly. For example, the deprivation of part of the population’s right to education affects not only those individuals, but also has repercussions on overall development and social stability.
The idea that human rights do not concern everyone disregards the devastating consequences of the denial of these rights. Situations such as discrimination, generalized violence and, specifically, gender-based violence, torture, and the lack of access to basic services, represent flagrant violations of human rights and give rise to perpetual cycles of inequality and suffering that, sooner or later, foster social upheaval and guerrilla movements.
To live in a society that denies or minimizes the importance of human rights engages collective responsibility. The danger of thinking that human rights are only for others is that, at any time, we can find ourselves in a situation in which our rights, or those of our children or family members, are affected.
Therefore, both due process and judicial independence are important because these are civil rights; they are everyone’s rights that prevent the abuse of power. We cannot wait until we find ourselves in a situation of defenselessness to understand the true value of human rights for all.
Fifth myth: Human rights are left-wing
The constant assertion that human rights belong to the left-wing political spectrum of our societies is one of the most harmful and specious myths.
Human rights are neither left-wing nor right-wing. Since their conception, human rights have transcended political divisions and are based on universal ethical and legal principles. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, probably one of the greatest conquests of humanity, reveals that it is possible to have universal values that are adapted to every culture, religion and political party that exists.
When the Court has acted to call attention to human rights violations committed by left-wing governments in the respective domestic sphere, it is accused of being right-wing. To the contrary, when it determines violations committed by right-wing governments, it is said that it acts with a left-wing agenda. As can be observed from the aforementioned examples, the Inter-American Court examines issues relating to the family, children, property, life, freedom of expression and thought, environment, and discrimination; in other words, a wide variety and diversity of topics that are protected by the American Convention, to the benefit of everyone, because human rights are everyone’s rights.
Sixth myth: Economic development should be the main goal to achieve the well-being of our societies
Just as there is a false dichotomy of security v. human rights, there is also a myth that the guarantees of the Rule of Law represent a constraint to progress; they generate costs, delay projects, and take up time, and these are factors that detract from competitiveness. Ungovernability is the word used to obscure this. This myth reflects an obsolete perspective. Contrary to this belief, sustainable economic development goes hand in hand with social equity and environmental protection.
Human rights and the Rule of Law provide the ethical and legal framework for an inclusive development that benefits all of society. The promotion of human rights contributes to more equitable and inclusive societies, reinforcing the social base and promoting an ethical business environment and a favorable environment for business negotiations.
Transparency and citizen participation in decision-making are essential aspects, and companies that respect human rights tend to be sustainable and successful in the long term. If we want to assess the importance of what is at stake in the context of human rights, let us think in the negative. In other words, the contrary to this would mean lack of transparency, corruption and impunity. Now, let us consider whether this negative scenario would attract or repel investors.
An outstanding example is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose mandate to design improved policies is focused on promoting equal opportunities and the well-being of all, thus integrating a human rights perspective into development. Moreover, in a globalized world, most investment and free trade agreements include human rights clauses, seeking to ensure that human rights are respected while safeguarding investments and their impact on a country’s sustainable development.
Investment and human rights are not only compatible, but also complementary. The cost-benefit rule is applicable in this regard because the cost of non-compliance with human rights is much greater than the possible benefit provided by an investment that fails to respect minimum standards.
Direct foreign investment is increasingly reluctant to invest in countries that base their development model on child labor, worker exploitation, or use of contaminating pesticides, for example, or when the rules of play of the economy – in other words, respect for private property and free trade – depend on the whims of a dictator or a caste to which the other powers bow down.
First, because consumers are increasingly boycotting markets and products that do not represent the values of human dignity. Also, companies are taking increasing care to ensure that their brands are not associated with poor practices because, to allow entry of their products, several of the major world markets require quality certifications that include a basic scrutiny of respect for certain human rights by producers and their supply chains. A strong Rule of Law, with a good reputation for commitment to fundamental human rights and freedoms, provides added value when competing in international markets.
In this regard, the Court has developed important Case Law that stresses the role of companies in the respect for human rights, understanding the relevance of such rights for development, as well as the special importance of entrepreneurs in Latin America. It can never be said that human rights are contrary to business; rather, on the contrary, companies are important allies in sustainable development and in respect for human rights.
The economy and markets do not exist in a vacuum. They depend on an environment that can only be provided by the Rule of Law and a strong institutional framework that guarantee the legal security of their investments. The mechanisms of the Rule of Law, particularly the strength of the courts, exist as escape valves for social tensions, with the ability to resolve major structural conflicts that threaten the stability of nations by means of the law. Conflicts that are not addressed by peaceful means and within the framework of the Rule of Law will, without any doubt, eventually result in social upheaval and violence. Accordingly, I have repeatedly indicated that what is not invested in justice will be paid for with interest in social breakdown.
With the above, I respond to the business sector which believes that the Rule of Law is superfluous when doing business. To the contrary, human rights and their institutions, guarantors of development, are an investment, not an obstacle.
VII. The Court’s institutional challenges
Lastly, I would like to address some of the major immediate and long-term challenges faced by this institution.1. Reduction of time frames and duration of cases
Cases cannot continue being processed before the Inter-American Commission for such a long time – the time before the Commission ranges from 10 to 12 years. This affects the victims, the States and, evidently, access to justice. The solution does not fall to the Court; but we call for options to be considered to ensure that victims obtain prompt justice. We must be able to conceive of ways to strengthen and improve access to inter-American justice.2. Budget
The time has come to provide the Court with a budget that allows it to work on a predictable basis, and in accordance with the region’s needs. Of the world’s three Regional human rights Courts, this court has the lowest budget, despite the significant impact of its decisions.3. Full-time judges
I believe the time has come to begin to think seriously that the Court should have full-time Judges. The workload and the impact of the Court’s decisions merit full-time Judges. Currently, we work almost full-time, because we hold sessions during 22 weeks each year, and the preparation of these Sessions requires the equivalent in extra time.4. Implementation of a Computerized Digital Filing System
At the present time, the Inter-American Court does not possess a digital filing system. The adoption of this technology is essential to improve the efficiency, transparency and accessibility of our processes. A computerized system would facilitate the management and monitoring of cases, leading to greater flexibility in decision-making and easier access to information for all parties involved.5. Election of new Judges
The OAS General Assembly will soon proceed to elect three new colleagues for this Court. In this process, it is essential to identify candidates who embody probity, excellence and commitment, values that have distinguished our colleagues. Even though the Inter-American Court does not participate directly in these elections, it is vital that, as has been traditional, eminent jurists, of recognized integrity and ethics are identified to exercise this elevated level of responsibility.6. Strengthening of relations with Judges and judicial officials in the region
We wish to strengthen relations with Judges and judicial officials of the Americas, exchanging Case Law and learning from each other with regard to the most urgent legal issues in the region. In 2024, we hope to commence an important initiative in this regard that allows us to share experiences and tools, to learn from each other, and to seek joint solutions to the region’s problems, all within our respective spheres of competencies. To this end, we will be increasing dialogue and judicial cooperation projects.
VIII. Closure and acknowledgements. Reflection.
I would like to conclude this intervention by urging you to combat false information with the truth; moreover, let us take the time to educate and dialogue.
In the face of authoritarianism, let us not lose sight of the essence of democracy and its benefits for peace and economic development. Let us strengthen the Rule of Law to counter insecurity, and seek solutions to its causes.
In the face of corruption, let us promote transparency and integrity. In the face of indifference, let us promote solidarity and respect. In the efforts to combat climate change, let us advance towards integral and sustainable development.
Freedom, justice and security are at the heart of the American Convention, together with many other relevant rights that concern us all. They are all human rights, the greatest hope for humanity to combat the evils that affect us. Above all, they are the principles that guide our humanity; they are our lodestar towards a future that is more just and more equitable.
In this new inter-American judicial year, we renew our commitment to human dignity, with the human rights recognized in the American Convention that united our region at a time of darkness as a source of light and hope. Let us renew our commitment to the highest values of justice and let us undertake to listen to our critics, to enter into dialogues, and to make the necessary improvements for this institution and the values that inspired its creation to continue protecting those who need justice.