Today, the first of two weeks of auditions has ended which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is holding from 25 January to 4 February.
On this occasion, the Court hears the victims, witnesses and expert witnesses as well as the parties’ oral submissions on two cases. The first one, Cepeda Vargas vs. Colombia, deals with the alleged extrajudicial execution of a Colombian left-wing senator in 1994 in combination with a lack of the due diligence regarding the investigations conducted in this case and the sanctions imposed on the perpetrators. The second case, Chitay Nech vs. Guatemala, is about the alleged forced disappearance of a Guatemalan indigenous people’s leader in conjunction with an alleged lack of due diligence in the investigation of the case and a lack of justice to the detriment of the victim’s kin.
The Court will also hold five public auditions on provisional measures as well as nine private auditions regarding the compliance with earlier cases handed down by the Court (for further information on the schedule and the cases see here).
The most striking incident of this first week of auditions was, undoubtedly, the partial recognition of responsibility through the State of Colombia in the Cepeda Vargas case. The State publicly apologized for the violation of Cepeda Varga’s rights to life, personal integrity, honour and dignity as well as of his liberty of expression and his political rights through state agents and the delayed investigations through the State authorities. The son of the senator, Dr. Ivan Cepeda Castro, stated that after years of statements of denial and depreciation this recognition was a significant step. That said, given the gravity of the defamatory statements, he asked the State to reiterate his statement before the Colombian Parliament through the President of the Republic and to transmit this session through a national TV channel “such that the Colombian people which has listened to the discourses and messages I referred to earlier will be able to hear the statement that the Colombian delegation has made today” (translation provided by the author).
It should be noted that this statement of recognition does not extent to all litigious points. In particular, the State did not recognize its alleged responsibility as an intellectual author of the murder of Senator Cepeda Vargas. The precise scope of the State’s recognition of responsibility as well as the remaining points of controversy will have to be clarified in the final judgment of the Court (for further information on this case see here).