Diego García-Sayán

89 Texas L. Rev. 1835

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Judge García-Sayán lauds the influence of the Inter-American Court on domestic Latin American judicial systems.  Domestic courts of Latin American countries serve not only as guarantors of the international obligations of states, they also legitimize and revitalize the rule of law by harmonizing international standards and their domestic law.  Four examples demonstrate this advance: amnesties, investigation of human rights violations, the right to an effective remedy, and rights of indigenous peoples.
With regard to amnesty, the Inter-American Court case of Barrios Altos has a significant impact on the ability of violators of international human rights laws to excuse their own behavior.  Of course, trial and conviction of Peruvian criminals throughout the Peruvian justice system was one result, but Barrios Altos also established interpretive parameters for analysis of amnesty provisions in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay.
With regard to investigation of human rights violations, the consistency of the Inter-American Court’s jurisprudence as to the importance of the obligation of states to guarantee international law has aligned the norms of a line of cases in Colombia and Peru.
With regard to the right to an effective remedy, the Inter-American Court’s interpretation of Article 8 and Article 25 of the American Convention has been adopted by the highest courts of several countries. For example, in Argentina, the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended as a result of the Inter-American Court’s decision in Herrera Ulloa v. Costa Rica to ensure the adequacy of Mr. Ulloa’s defense. In Guatemala, an Inter-American Court case overturned a death penalty sentence on a due process claim.  Additional decisions along these lines have come out of Peru and Mexico.
With regard to the rights of indigenous peoples, the Inter-American Court has established a framework for juridicial pluralism and nondiscrimination.  Against criticism of the imposition of international normative institutional parameters onto indigenous authorities, the Inter-American Court has protected the autonomy of indigenous groups while defending the principles of international human rights.  For instance, in Nicaragua, communal property rights of indigenous groups were vindicated by the Inter-American Court.  On the other hand, the Constitutional Court of Colombia has defended a strong interpretation of individual rights against the right of an indigenous community to punish offenders of their laws by using the approach of the Inter-American Court.