Examples of the impact of friendly settlement agreements

In this section you may find additional information of some emblematic examples of friendly settlements agreements. It is worth noting that the effectiveness of the friendly settlement mechanism rests on two pillars: the will of the parties to reach a friendly settlement and the compliance with the clauses of the agreement and that should ensure the respect of the human rights recognized in regional instruments.


  Back to top  

Case 11.706, Yanomami Indigenous People Of Haximu, Venezuela

On December 6, 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a petition against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, for the murder of 16 Yanomami indigenous persons from the Haximu region, in June and July 1993; for not effectively preventing the presence of the garimpeiros (independent mining prospectors) on Yanomami territory; and for failure to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible.

The Venezuelan State and the indigenous Yanomami Haximu signed a friendly settlement agreement on October 1, 1999, that was ratified on the December 10 of the same year. In this agreement the petitioners undertook to work with the Brazilian government to prevent further garimpeiro’s attacks due to the illegal mining in the Yanomami area.

Through the friendly settlement procedure, petitioners and States agreed on implementation of health programs to serve indigenous communities, which have gone a long way toward solving these communities’ health problems. One example is the agreement concluded between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Yanomami indigenous people of Haximu, under which the State undertook the commitment to finance and put into operation, through its Ministry of Health, a comprehensive health program that would include construction of infrastructure, medical equipment, and training for members of this people. Under the agreement, the petitioners acknowledged important progress, particularly with respect to the system of outpatient clinics in the Upper Orinoco Health District. They pointed out that the State has taken measures to ensure improvement of the primary health care service coverage. (IACHR, Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure).

Photos: Click to enlange them

  Back to top  

Case 12.546, Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, Guatemala

On December 27, 1999, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a petition against the State of Guatemala alleging the State's responsibility, to the detriment of Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, his spouse Maria Cristina Vilanova de Arbenz and his children Juan Jacobo, Maria Leonora and Arabella, due to the overthrowing of constitutionally elected President Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in a military coup, which forced the Arbenz family into exile and led to the confiscation of their property by the military dictatorship.

Through a friendly settlement agreement signed on May 19, 2011, the Guatemalan State acknowledged its international responsibility for the breach of its obligation to guarantee, respect and protect the human rights of the victims to a fair trial, to private property, equality before the law and judicial protection, protected in the American Convention on Human Rights and violated against former President Arbenz and his family.

The agreement was signed between the family of the former president of Guatemala, Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, and the State of Guatemala, for the violations committed on the occasion of the military coup that took place on June 27, 1954. In compliance with the commitments undertaken by the State, on October 20, 2011, the President of the Republic of Guatemala acknowledged the State’s responsibility for the human rights violations committed against the Arbenz family and, as head of State, constitutional President of the Republic, and commander-in-chief of the Army, asked pardon for the crime committed. [...] letters of atonement and letters asking forgiveness are an important measure to restore the victim’s dignity and an essential part of the mourning process. (IACHR, Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure).

Photos: Click to enlange them


  Back to top  

Case 12.660, Ricardo Ucan Seca, Mexico

On March 31, 2004, the Inter-American Commission on Human rights received a petition alleging the responsibility of the State of Mexico for alleged irregularities affecting the criminal process against Mr. Ucan Seca, an indigenous Mayan, who was not assisted by an interpreter who would have allowed him to defend himself and make himself understood in his own language and who did not have an adequate public defender.

After 9 years in prison, Ricardo Ucan Seca, recovered his freedom after his representatives and the State of Mexico signed a friendly settlement agreement.

The friendly settlement agreement that the State of Mexico and the petitioners signed in the case of Ricardo Ucan Seca illustrates the inclusion of restitution measures in such agreements and the impact that they have when the State complies with its international obligations.

Following long negotiations and a public hearing at the Commission’s headquarters, the petitioners and the State of Mexico signed a friendly settlement agreement on December 31, 2009. Under the terms of the agreement, the State pledged, inter alia, to grant Mr. Ricardo Ucan Seca’s release through administrative channels and to arrange assistance for him and his family given their socioeconomic situation. In keeping with the friendly settlement, Mr. Ricardo Ucan Seca was released by virtue of a law on suspended sentences. (IACHR, Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure).

Photos: Click to enlange them

Videos: Click on the images to watch (in Spanish)


  Back to top  

Case 11.141, Massacre Villatina, Colombia

On March 12, 1993, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a petition against the Republic of Colombia for the facts that occurred on November 15, 2012, when a group of armed men carrying weapons of exclusive use of the military force, opened fire against a group of children, which resulted in the death of 8-year-old Johana Mazo Ramirez, 17-year-old Johny Alexander Cardona Ramirez, 17-year-old Ricardo Alexander Hernandez, 15-year-old Giovanny Alberto Vallejo Restrepo, 17-year-old Oscar Andres Ortiz Toro, 16-year-old Angel Alberto Baron Miranda, 17-year-old Marlon Alberto Alvarez, 17-year-old Nelson Duban Florez Villa, and Mauricio Antonio Higuita Ramirez, a 22-year-old young man.

On July 29, 2002, the State of Colombia signed a friendly settlement agreement in which it recognized its responsibility for the violation of the American Convention, the right to justice and to individual reparation of the relatives of the victims of the Villatina massacre.

The fulfillment of the friendly settlement agreement signed between the Colombian State and the petitioners in the case of the Villatina Massacre illustrates the impact that measures of reparation can have for the victims of human rights violations and their families. In the agreement, the State pledged to install a commemorative plaque at the Villatina Health Center and to build a monument in the victims’ honor. v

The plaque reads as follows:

“This Health Center was built in memory of Johanna Mazo Ramirez, age 8, Giovanny Alberto Vallejo Restrepo, age 15, Johny Alexander Cardona Ramirez, age 17, Ricardo Alexander Hernandez, age 17, Oscar Andres Ortiz Toro, age 17, Angel Alberto Baron Miranda, age 16, Marlon Alberto Alvarez, age 17, Nelson Duban Florez Villa, age 17, and Mauricio Antonio Higuita Ramirez, age 22, all of whom died on November 15, 1992 in the district of Villatina in Medellin.
The Colombian Government publicly recognized its responsibility to the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to Colombian society for the violation of human rights in these serious crimes, chargeable to agents of the State. Likewise, it expressed its feelings of solidarity and condolences to the families of the victims.
This action of moral redress and atonement will not be enough to ease the pain that this crime has caused, but it is an obligation of the State, a fundamental step to do justice and so that crimes of this nature do not occur again.”.

On July 13, 2004, a park in honor of the victims was inaugurated in the city of Medellin. Present for the event were the victims’ mothers, the Vice President of the Republic, the Minister of Defense, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Director of the National Police, officials from the Office of the Mayor of Medellin, the petitioners, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Colombia, and the Executive Secretary of the Commission. (IACHR, Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure).

Photos: Click to enlange them


  Back to top  

Case 12.191, Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chavez, Peru

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a petition on June 15, 1999 alleging the responsibility of the State of Peru for the violation of the rights of Maria Mamerita Mestanza when she was forcibly subjected to a forced sterilization surgery, which eventually caused her death.

The Peruvian government and the representatives of the family of Maria Mamerita Mestanza signed a friendly settlement agreement on August 26, 2003 which included measures to provide a monetary compensation for the family, as well as legislative and policy changes to avoid the repetition of such cases.

On the subject of sexual and reproductive rights, under a friendly settlement following a complaint alleging the forced sterilization of Maria Mamerita Mestanza, the State of Peru pledged, inter alia, to adopt and implement the following public policies:

1) Continuously provide training to health personnel regarding reproductive rights, violence against women, domestic violence, human rights, and gender equity, in coordination with civil society organizations that specialize in these topics.

2) Adopt the necessary administrative measures so that rules ensuring the right to informed consent are scrupulously followed by health personnel.

3) Guarantee that centers that offer sterilization surgery meet the conditions required by the Family Planning Program.

4) Take strict measures to ensure that the compulsory reflection period of 72 hours is faithfully and universally honored.

5) Implement a mechanism or channels for efficient and expeditious receipt and processing of complaints alleging human rights violations in health establishments, in order to prevent and redress any injury caused.

Under the friendly settlement agreement signed by the Peruvian State and petitioners who filed a complaint with the Commission alleging the forced sterilization of Maria Mamerita Mestanza, the State pledged to introduce changes in the law and public policy on reproductive health and family planning, to eliminate any discriminatory content, and to respect women’s autonomy.

There have been advances in the compliance with this case, in particular regarding the compensation to the family members and on the State’s decision to reopen the preliminary investigation into the forced sterilization of Maria Mamerita and thousands of other women. (IACHR, Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure).

Photos: Click to enlange them


  Back to top  

Case 11.713, Indigenous Communities Enxet-Lamenxay et al, Paraguay, Paraguay

In this case related to land claims made by the Lamenxay and Riachito (Kayleyphapopyet) indigenous communities, both of which belong to the Enxet-Sanapana people; and brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 25, 1998, a friendly settlement agreement was reached with the good offices of the Commission; under this agreement, the Paraguayan State agreed to acquire a 21,884.44-hectare tract of land in Pozo Colorado district, Presidente Hayes department, in the Paraguayan Chaco, hand it over to the aforesaid indigenous communities, and register it with the competent authorities as belonging to them.

Through this friendly settlement agreement, 300 members of the indigenous community obtained back their ancestral lands.

On July 30, 1999, in a public ceremony attended by the IACHR, the President of Paraguay delivered the property deeds of 21,844 hectares which, in the friendly settlement, the government had pledged to purchase, to the representatives of the indigenous communities.

That friendly settlement also established commitments regarding reparation measures that would have a direct impact on protection of the alleged victims’ economic, social and cultural rights. These measures included assistance to the communities in the form of food, medication, equipment, and means of transportation to enable the families to move to their new settlement; health related, medical and educational assistance to the community, and upkeep of the property’s access roads.

Photos: Click to enlange them

Video: Examples of Friendly Settlements (in Spanish)