The Friendly Settlement Procedure

Since the discussions held in the framework of the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Human Rights, the event where the American Convention on Human Rights was adopted and signed, the states envisaged the incorporation of a friendly settlement mechanism as part of the system for processing individual petitions and cases. Inspired by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the states relied on the Commission to give the parties an alternative to the possibility of publishing a report on merits or or that the case was brought before a judicial body.

When the Commission receives a petition or communication ..., [it] shall place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter.

The friendly settlement mechanism is envisaged in Article 48.1.f of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 40 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure. Under those provisions, on its own initiative or at the request of any of the parties, the Commission, at any stage of the examination of a petition or case, shall place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned for the purpose of opening a dialogue by which the states and the alleged victims of human rights violations may undertake negotiations with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter, on the basis of respect for the human rights recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration, and other applicable instruments.

This process initiates and concludes by the consent of both parties and creates opportunities not only for a large variety of measures to be adopted to repair the alleged victims themselves, but also for measures to be adopted that may have a wide impact on society in terms of effecting change in favor of human rights observance.

Once both parties have notified the IACHR in writing of their interest in initiating a friendly settlement procedure, the IACHR facilitates the process by forwarding all written information to both parties for observations. It is worth noting that throughout the entire friendly settlement procedure, the Commission plays an active role in promoting and advising the parties on the mechanism, as well as facilitating dialogue. However, the parties may hold meetings throughout the process, either in their countries of origin, with or without the direct participation of the IACHR, or in the presence of the IACHR in the context of its sessions or working visits to countries.

The Commission may terminate its intervention in the friendly settlement procedure if any of the parties does not consent to its application, decides not to continue it, or does not display willingness to reach a friendly settlement. The Commission may also terminate its intervention if it finds that the matter is not susceptible to such as resolution. In such an event, in accordance with Article 40 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR will continue to process the petition or case at the procedural stage that had been reached in the matter.

Once an agreement setting out the commitments adopted by the parties has been reached, the Commission, in accordance with Article 49 of the American Convention, verifies that it meets the human rights standards recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, the American Declaration, and other applicable instruments, after which it adopts a report containing a brief statement of the facts and of the solution reached. For legal purposes the report adopted under Article 49 of the American Convention on Human Rights concludes the proceedings before the IACHR.

After publishing a report on a friendly settlement report, the IACHR monitors compliance with the clauses of the agreement in accordance with the provisions contained in Article 48 of its Rules of Procedure, which enables it to adopt the follow-up measures it deems appropriate, such as requesting information from the parties and holding hearings and/or working meetings in order to verify compliance with friendly settlement agreements. In any event, the IACHR follows up on agreements approved since 2000 through its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

Friendly Settlement Handbook
Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure