María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reports that the parties involved in Petition 946-12, Cesar Antonio Peralta Wezel et al. with regard to Chile, signed a friendly settlement agreement on June 11, 2016. The petition, which was lodged in 2012, refers to three same-sex couples’ alleged lack of access to civil marriage and to legal recognition by the Chilean State of marriages performed in other countries.
The friendly settlement agreement was signed at a working meeting held between the parties in Chile, facilitated by the IACHR Rapporteur for that country. In the agreement, the State recognized the facts that gave rise to the petitioners’ complaint and acknowledged the need to continue strengthening its institutional foundations to avoid discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex) people. The State also recognized the need to improve and adjust its public policies and laws with a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the rights of LGBTI people.
In the text of the friendly settlement agreement, the State made a commitment to work with the petitioners to promote a process of public dialogue beginning with a public ceremony to which representatives of the three branches of government and of the Constitutional Court would be invited. The State also pledged to take steps to implement non-repetition measures, including bringing a marriage equality bill before the legislature; adopting the necessary measures to promote the initiative on marriage equality as a matter of legitimate interest in a democratic, inclusive society; reviewing and eventually reforming or repealing Articles 373 and 365 of the Criminal Code, to eliminate all types of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; and tracking the bill on gender identity currently moving through the legislative process in the Senate.
The friendly settlement agreement was signed by State authorities at the highest level, including the Minister of Women and Gender Equity, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Minister of the General Secretariat of Government, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Human Rights Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On January 20, 2016, President Michelle Bachelet presided over a ceremony held at the Palacio de la Moneda, Chile’s seat of the presidency, in fulfillment of the friendly settlement agreement between the parties. Others in attendance included the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Ministers of State, Members of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the President of the Constitutional Court, the Director of the National Human Rights Institute, the Deputy Secretary for Human Rights, and Ambassadors, as well as members of the LGBT group Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (MOVILH) and other civil society organizations. Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Chile, attended the ceremony as a witness of honor representing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
During the ceremony, President Bachelet stated, “We are gathered today to fulfill the friendly settlement agreement we signed with MOVILH, and at the same time to begin—as we established—the process of public discussion on marriage equality. A process which civil society and all branches of government are called on to join. Chile thus formally recognizes our need as a country to continue strengthening our institutional foundations and our laws to avoid all types of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex persons. And we are committed, as a State, to promoting an open public discussion that allows the country to produce a satisfactory bill on marriage equality, recognizing the same rights for everyone. This is not only a demand of the international justice system, but a legitimate demand of Chilean society.”
In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heraldo Muñoz Valenzuela, speaking on behalf of the Chilean State, reaffirmed the government of Chile’s willingness to advance human rights standards, especially regarding the principle of equality and non-discrimination. “We hope that the public debate on marriage equality that formally begins today will make a significant contribution to overcoming prejudice, combatting discrimination, and moving forward on the path to the fullest respect for human rights in our country, so as to effectively fulfill the commitment the State has freely assumed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” Minister Muñoz said.
Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons, said that “the ceremony of recognition marks an important step that the State of Chile has taken in order to respect and guarantee the human rights of all people, including the rights to family, without any discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
For his part, Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero, Rapporteur for Chile, indicated that “friendly settlements have proved to be one of the best instruments for justice and social peace, to resolve differences and conflicts. The parties thus become the best judges of their own causes.” In the case of marriage equality, the Commission will continue monitoring the other commitments made by the Chilean State and continue supporting the parties until the agreement is completely fulfilled.
The IACHR applauds the beginning of the implementation of the friendly settlement agreement with the public ceremony launching the social dialogue process, and it underscores the importance of the parties’ joint efforts to determine the content of the agreement as it pertains to legislative reform and public policy on non-discrimination of LGBTI people.
The IACHR will continue to do its work of monitoring the points of the agreement reached between the parties, with a view to the full implementation of the commitments that were agreed upon.
A principal, autonomous body of the OAS, the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.