Press Release

IACHR Celebrates Progress on Friendly Settlements in 2017–2018

January 9, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The IACHR is pleased to announce that it decided to prioritize the friendly settlements mechanism in 2017–2018 by stepping up efforts to promote negotiations to achieve friendly settlements and to improve compliance with agreements that have already been signed, according to what was stablished by the IACHR in its Strategic Plan 2017-2021.

After conducting a study on this mechanism, which included a consultation with states, civil society, academia, and experts on alternative dispute resolution, the IACHR established three strategic lines of action, which it has been working on since 2012. The aim of these is to a) further promote friendly settlement processes; b) strengthen monitoring mechanisms for friendly settlements; and c) publicize the friendly settlement mechanism more widely among IASHR users.

The IACHR stepped up its efforts on the first two of these areas by facilitating rapprochement between parties in order to negotiate and implement agreements, increasing the number of working meetings held at its headquarters and in other locations, adopting an action protocol, reviewing and updating processes, providing legal technical advice to the parties, and promoting compliance with the friendly settlement agreements the IACHR has already approved. In January 2017, the IACHR passed the San Francisco Protocol, through which it was decided that alternative dispute resolution techniques would be used during friendly settlement processes to lay the groundwork for negotiations, identify parties’ interests, facilitate dialogue so as to identify zones of possible agreement (ZOPAs), and use premediation and mediation techniques, as well as giving visibility to the friendly settlement processes and the individual and structural impacts they have (see the Protocol here).

The IACHR also improved the way country Rapporteurs facilitate friendly settlement processes and consolidated the practice of conducting working visits to promote friendly settlement facilitation and monitoring meetings. Through mediation on the part of Commissioners, the IACHR has gradually increased the spaces available for negotiating and monitoring friendly settlement agreements, such that it held 22 working meetings in 2012, 20 in 2103, 39 in 2014, 36 in 2015, 36 in 2016, 52 in 2017, and 40 in 2018. To this end, the IACHR also conducted four working visits on friendly settlements in 2017 and 2018 to Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay.

One of the ways in which the IACHR has encouraged the use of friendly settlement mechanisms is by offering personalized support for parties from the point that they first express an interest in using the mechanism. This is provided by the technical team from the Friendly Settlements Section and focuses on negotiations to reach an agreement and promote its compliance. The Friendly Settlements and Monitoring Section has been more proactive about encouraging parties to explore the use of the mechanism, while fully respecting the principle of free will on which the procedure is based. This was achieved by applying the methodologies of the San Francisco Protocol to promote friendly settlements and make greater use of dispute resolution techniques by making the process of reaching friendly settlements more flexible and informal and facilitating dialogue between the parties to reach consensus.

Among other measures, the IACHR technical team has started to take informal action as soon as one of the parties expresses an interest in starting a friendly settlement procedure. This entails providing parties with information on the mechanism so that they can make informed decisions about using it so as to improve power balancing during negotiation processes. The IACHR has also publicized the progress that has been achieved through friendly settlements so as to enable other victims of human rights violations to obtain reparations that are in line with their interests and needs and so that users of the IASHR become aware of the impacts of these settlements.

As part of the process of the promotion of the friendly settlements, in 2018 the IACHR published an updated version of the Report on the Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure. This describes how the mechanism has evolved and lists all agreements reached between 1985 and 2017 by reparation type and also includes examples of good practices. As part of this promotional effort, in 2017 the IACHR held two workshops for government officials and members of civil society, one national seminar on friendly settlements in Argentina, and two specialized meetings on negotiation and implementation of friendly settlement agreements in Washington, DC, which were attended by representatives from states that are in charge of negotiating and implementing agreements, petitioners, academics, and experts on alternative dispute resolution. In 2018, the IACHR organized a dialogue table on Friendly Settlements for International Disputes between States and Individuals, in partnership with the Center on International Arbitration at the American University’s Washington College of Law. It also organized five workshops for IASHR users, including CARICOM member states.

As a result of the IACHR’s efforts in the three lines of actions aforementioned, in 2017 six friendly settlement agreements were signed on issues 12.714, Belen de Altavista Massacre; 12.712, Ruben Dario Arroyave; and 12.941, Nicolasa and relatives in Colombia; 11.562, Dixie Miguel Urbina; 12.891, Adam Guillermo Lopez Lone and others from Honduras; and P-1224-07, David Rabinovich from Uruguay. In 2018, nine friendly settlement agreements were signed on cases 12.904, Aymara Chusmiza Usmagama indigenous community and 12.19, Jose Luis Tapia Gonzalez from Chile; 93/181, Isidoro Leon Ramirez and others from Colombia; 12.942, Emilia Morales Campos from Costa Rica; 12.957, Bolivar Hernandez from Ecuador; 735-07, Ismael Mondragon, 12.986, Jose Bolaños, and 13.408, Alberto Patishtan Gomez from Mexico; and 1516-08, Juan Figueroa Acosta from Peru.

The IACHR also wishes to praise and congratulate the States of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay, all of which are using the friendly settlement mechanism. The IACHR also noted the historic milestone Costa passed by reaching and signing its first friendly settlement agreement. The IACHR wishes to congratulate the users of the friendly settlement mechanism for the good will they have shown in reaching consensus through alternative dispute resolution techniques and it urges OAS member states to continue their efforts to develop an Inter-American public policy on friendly settlements.

In 2019, the IACHR will step up its efforts to offer its services facilitating friendly settlement processes by applying alternative conflict resolution techniques to identify interests, claims, positions, and ZOPAs. The IACHR will continue to encourage negotiations between parties to jointly design the different aspects of friendly settlement agreements and will continue to ensure that they comply with the terms they have agreed to. It also intends to expand spaces for working meetings and to continue prioritizing its work areas so as to strengthen friendly settlement mechanisms.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (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 and to defend 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.

No. 004/19