Press Release

IACHR Completes Successful Forum on Transitional Justice in El Salvador, Reminds the State of the Applicable Inter-American Standards

October 25, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) completed on October 4, in San Salvador, its successful Forum on Transitional Justice in El Salvador.

The Forum was one of several actions to promote technical cooperation and boost capacities in this field, and to publicize the applicable inter-American standards. It sought to display progress made in El Salvador toward developing a comprehensive transitional justice policy and the challenges that remained pending in this field, as well as to debate potential improvements. The IACHR held this Forum jointly with the Pan American Development Foundation and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), with valuable support from the “José Simeón Cañas” Central American University and from the University of El Salvador.

The event brought together more than 170 participants, including representatives of civil society, social organizations, victims, academics, representatives of international organizations and cooperation agencies, State officials, international experts, and members of the general public.

Several thematic panels addressed various aspects of progress made on transitional justice and pending challenges on the issue. These panels were led by Commissioner Antonia Urrejola (the IACHR’s Second Vice President and head of the Commission’s Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice) and by Fabián Salvioli (the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence). The following subject experts also took part in the Forum: Florentín Meléndez, former magistrate of the Chamber for Constitutionality Matters of El Salvador’s Supreme Court of Justice; José María Tojeira, head of the Institute of Human Rights at the Central American University “José Simeón Cañas”; Ana Oberlin, Ad Hoc Prosecutor in the Support Unit for Cases of Human Rights Violations Committed in State-Sponsored Terrorism in Argentina; David Morales, head of Strategic Litigation at the organization Cristosal; and María Clara Galvis, former member of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances. These moderators encouraged debate on the need to make progress toward a comprehensive transitional justice policy based on the applicable international and inter-American human rights standards.

“The IACHR cannot do effective work without the determined support of victims and civil society. It is therefore crucial for you to continue to promote the application of inter-American standards and regulations concerning transitional justice, advocating widespread progress, and expanding justice for future generations,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola. “The Inter-American Commission reaffirms its willingness to support the State and Salvadoran society in the fight for peace, justice, memory, reparation, and non-recurrence and will continue to remain available to provide technical assistance to all efforts made to ensure the effective exercise of the rights to truth and justice in the country,” Commissioner Urrejola stressed.

In the context of this visit, on October 3, Commissioner Urrejola and Andrés Sánchez, the OHCHR’s Assistant Regional Representative, met with members of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly. This meeting sought to enable dialogue on international and inter-American standards concerning transitional justice bills. Based on publicly available reports, the legislature has now agreed to launch the process to debate, draft, and vote on the separate articles held in the transitional justice bill.

The IACHR stresses that effective participation by individuals in public decision-making is not just a promising principle, but a right that needs to be enforced, as well as a State obligation based on inter-American standards. It is not enough to create mechanisms for consultation and deliberation—their outcomes need to be integrated in decision-making all along the public policy cycle.

The IACHR stresses its call to the State of El Salvador, so it may ensure that the process to adopt a bill complies with the relevant international standards concerning memory, truth, and justice. The Commission reminds El Salvador of its obligation to refrain from enacting laws that violate the rights of victims and prevent justice from being done in cases of serious human rights violations. The IACHR deems it necessary to strengthen and improve public policies aimed at preventing and eradicating patterns of structural impunity. The Commission has stated that absolute amnesty and statute of limitations dispositions and exemptions from responsibility that seek to preclude investigation and punishment for anyone responsible for serious human rights violations are inadmissible. The State apparatus must act to ensure that such human rights violations do not go unpunished and to restore the full rights of victims.

Finally, it is worth noting that the Forum on Transitional Justice is part of the Regional Project on Human Rights and Democracy, which is implemented jointly with the Pan American Development Foundation. The Project seeks to increase knowledge and awareness about the Inter-American Human Rights System and its standards, and targets key local actors in charge of protecting and defending human rights in the States of the Northern Triangle of Central America.

These activities end the first year of the technical cooperation actions that the IACHR launched in 2018. The IACHR thanks the State of El Salvador for it willingness to take part in this initiative to promote capacity-building to address the multiple challenges inherent in the fight against impunity. The Commission seeks to help countries in the region to comply with their international obligations and to implement recommendations in accordance with inter-American standards and regulations concerning human rights. Specifically, the IACHR offers support for these purposes through its mechanism for technical cooperation, for cases such as El Salvador’s transitional justice process.

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. 274/19