Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Progress Made by Costa Rica to Implement Friendly Settlement in the Emilia Morales Campos Case

February 4, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) got notice of the progress made by the Costa Rican State to execute its first friendly settlement agreement. The Commission welcomes the efforts made by Costa Rica to fulfil the international obligations that stem from the agreement signed by the parties in that case.

On April 7, 2006, the IACHR received a petition that alleged that the Costa Rican State was internationally responsible for violations of due process, of the right to judicial protection and of the right to personal integrity to the detriment of Emilia Morales Campos, an older woman with disabilities. Those rights violations were said to have been committed after she requested a family housing voucher in 1991, in a procedure that had allegedly not been resolved 23 years later. The petitioner argued that, as a consequence of those events, she and her daughter—who was a child at the time—lived in precarious conditions for several years, in a house donated to them by private citizens in 1997 and which was 1.5 meters away from a small stream (photo). Given the dampness and the erosion of the soil caused by the passing water, the house was seriously damaged and unstable. That entailed risks that allegedly caused Morales’ health to deteriorate further, since such living conditions were not suitable for someone who suffered from asthma and whose physical disabilities made it difficult for her to move.

On April 3, 2014, the Commission declared the case admissible regarding claims about an alleged violation of rights protected in Articles 5 (personal integrity), 8 (a fair trial), 19 (rights of the child), 25 (judicial protection) and 26 (progressive development), in connection with Articles 1.1 and 2 of the American Convention.

In January 2016, with the mediation of the IACHR, the parties launched a process to seek a friendly settlement. During explorations facilitated by the Commission, the petitioner said she wanted to obtain—through the friendly settlement process—a house that was her own property and where she could live a dignified life.

The parties signed a friendly settlement on July 20, 2018 in San José, Costa Rica, at an event where the IACHR was represented by Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño (see photos of the signing of the friendly settlement).

During the negotiation process, the parties designed the contents of the friendly settlement together, and the State gave Emilia Morales customized assistance so she could meet the requirements to obtain a dignified home through a family housing voucher. The State further gave the beneficiary a choice of several land options, so Emilia Morales could choose the location in which her house would be built suited to her needs and her disabilities.

Commissioner Joel Hernández, IACHR Rapporteur for Costa Rica, highlighted the importance of the friendly settlement mechanism as a relevant tool “to reach consensual solutions faster than processes that need to await consideration by the Commission.” He noted that “the friendly settlement procedure enables the implementation of individual and structural measures through cooperation with States.”

On her part, Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, who is in charge of the Unit on the Rights of Older Persons, said that “this is not only the first friendly settlement for Costa Rica, but it is also an emblematic case, since it is the first such agreement that explicitly includes obligations that stem from the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons. It is also the first time that a friendly settlement is founded in the obligations established in the Convention incorporating gender perspective and also the perspective of disabilities, in an intersectional manner.”

On November 30, 2018, the Costa Rican State handed over Morales’ new home at a solemn event that was held in the house (see handover ceremony and photos).

Regarding the compliance with the measure, the beneficiary of the FSA, Emilia Morales, stated that “today my little granddaughter has a lovely, large space where she can play, a dignified bedroom, a place where she can do her homework and school projects, all that and more thanks to God and thanks to your excellent work,” Commissioner Arosemena, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, noted that “the IACHR and its Rapporteurship on the rights of children highly value Emilia Morales’ tireless struggle to uphold her own rights and those of her daughter and granddaughter, and to obtain access to a home and to dignified living conditions where the child can grow in a safe and healthy environment.”

The Commission was told that the State will deliver the deed for that home during the first half of 2019, free of charge for the beneficiary in line with the friendly settlement that was reached.

The Commission values the good disposition of Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry to promote and support this agreement, in constant cooperative dialogue with the Friendly Settlement Section and with the beneficiary. The IACHR calls on the relevant authorities to complete the deal by handing the deed over to the beneficiary as quickly as possible.

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. 025/19