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I/A Court H.R. and STF highlight the importance of the Inter-American System of Human Rights


Monday, November 11th 2013

At the opening of the 49th Extraordinary Session of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court H.R.) this Monday (11) afternoon, the President of the Institution, Diego Garcia-Sayán, the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF), Joaquim Barbosa and the Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, emphasized the importance of this meeting taking place in Brazil for understanding the role of the I/A Court H.R. The formal session, held at the Plenary of the STF in Brasilia, counted with the presence of the I/A Court H.R.' members, STF magistrates and Brazilian authorities. Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa said that Brazil is honored to host the extraordinary session, which, according to him, "is imbued with historical milestone."

The ceremony was also accompanied by victims' relatives of the Colombian case which will be examined by I/A Court H.R. begining tomorrow (12) - Vera Rodríguez and others v. Colombia case, which addresses those missing during the seizure of Colombia's Palace of Justice by military forces in 1985. The military operation was a response to the action of the April 19th Movement (M-19) that occupied the building which was the headquarters of the Supreme Court of Colombia in an attempt to prosecute the Colombian President Belisario Betancur.

Human rights and Brazilian democratization

Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo presented Brazilian President Dilma's message which stressed that the relationship between Brazil and the Inter-American system of Human Rights is intertwined with the very process of redemocratization of the country . She recalled the 25 years of the Brazilian Federal Constitution, “admittedly a dividing line at which Brazil began to update its international commitments in the human rights field." According to the President, "It is very important that the Brazilian society and all bodies of all powers of all spheres, understand the value of the work done by the Court as well as the meaning of the commitments made by Brazil before this instance."

Respect for human rights

In his speech, the Chief Justice noted that on July 9, 1992, Brazil ratified the American Convention on Human Rights. "After 21 years, the same essence of what was agreed at that time is perpetuated in the Supreme Court," he said. "The reception of the Inter-American Court by the Supreme Federal Court reaffirms this Court's respect to the inherent values of man's essential rights already recognized and explicitly stated in the Pact of San José of Costa Rica."

According to Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, the first steps of the American states were towards the protection of human rights, still before the "sad memory" of World War II. "It was then necessary to equip citizens with the means to allow an effective resistance to any and all totalitarian regime," he stated. "Today we recognize a real quest for effectiveness of the Inter-American system of Human Rights, and it is with great satisfaction that the Supreme Federal Court shares this vision that, in a broad manner, forms the conditions' basic framework  for a dignified and full life."

For the STF's Chief Justice, the dialogue between the public Powers and the international organizations is a relevant tool of the achievement of republican ideals." The clear understanding of the existence of a sphere of jurisdiction assigned by Brazil and several other Latin American countries to the Inter-American Human Rights bodies makes these international entities integrated bodies of the jurisdictional attribution's network that our country sovereignly decided to submit itself," he stressed. "We are not here to welcome a foreign Court, but an entity that, in fact, integrates the set of institutions accredited by Brazil to the defense and promotion of human rights activity."

Themes discussed in the STF

Over the past few years,  according to the magistrate, several themes that integrate the already consolidated case law were addressed in the STF. Among them, provisions related to timely duration of judicial proceedings, the reasonable timeframe of precautionary prison, the validity of the creation of councils of Justice under the Military Justice, the understanding of the principle of non-criminality of the defendant, the non-appropriateness of civil prison for the unfaithful trustee, the existence of criminal type regarding  torture cases against children and adolescents, as well as several arguments related to the American Convention on Human Rights adopted by the STF on rejecting some requests for extraditions.

"Brazil has been assuming enduring commitments with the decisions given in the international human rights sphere," he highlighted while exemplifying the inclusion of the 3rd paragraph of the 5th Article of the Brazilian Federal Constitution by the 45th Constitutional Amendment. Thus, the Court made the recognition  of the international treaties and conventions on human rights' equivalence on  constitutional amendments possible which "demonstrates the clear opening of Brazil to innovations related to the defense and tpromotion of human rights."

At the end, Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa stressed that realization of the I/A  Court H.R. session in Brazil and its partnership with the STF demonstrates "the true intention of the Brazilian judiciary" to better understand the Inter-American Human Rights system." This meeting, besides strengthening ties, also highlights the importance attributed by the Brazilian judiciary to the performance of the I/A Court H.R," he concluded.

I/A Court H.R. development

"There is a very strong meaning in being received that way by the Brazilian justice. I confess that this is an unprecedented act and we are very honored to be here in this House," the President of I/A Court H.R. Diego Garcia-Sayán said while thanking the generous reception by the Brazilian authorities on the 49th Extraordinary Session of the Inter-American Court . According to him, the purpose of conducting sessions in Brazil is to make the people, one of the recipients of their decisions, learn how the Court works.

Garcia-Sayán talked about some matters judged by the Court such as freedom of speech, amnesty,  access to information, indigenous issues and attention to victims' rights. For Sayán, these themes enrich the countries' democracies and international law. Regarding freedom of speech, he said that this right, which was "badly treated during the years by the authoritarianism and dictatorship," is constantly analyzed by the I/A Court H.R. which has produced case law for the protection of this guarantee both for the press and for any citizen.

However, he stressed the need for reflection and balance among laws where there may be possible conflicts. "The freedom of speech cannot be understood as a right that is exercised without limit," he affirmed. "You have to take into account other rights, such as those related to honor and intimacy."

According to Garcia-Sayán, the I/A Court H.R.' case law has been varied as people began to be more aware that they can exercise their rights. "There has been an increase in the ammount of cases before the Court," he noted. “Now, the population has more knowledge and contacts the I/A Court H.R. which ultimately is not so far away from society as one can imagine." According to its President, "The I/A Court H.R. has benefited and benefits from a context at which the democratic march progresses through thanks to the people and authorities who are taking the necessary steps to move in that direction."

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