Argentina Courts Limit Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Human rights

In a ruling mid-February, the Argentinian Supreme Court imposed severe limitations on the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, causing human rights organizations to question the implications for local human rights cases.

Although the Supreme Court confirmed that rulings from the IACHR would still remain standing, they, however, will now decide which rulings are applicable. Human rights organizations expressed concern that this limits the options of disenfranchised citizens who were dissatisfied with the response from local courts. Now, Argentinian courts have the final decision.

The ruling came in reaction to a judicial presentation submitted by the Foreign Ministry’s Human Rights Office, which recommended the Argentinian Supreme Court uphold the IACHR’s ruling in regards to the “Fontevecchia” case, concerning journalists fined for libel against the former President Carlos Menem. At the time, the Supreme Court upheld a fine against the journalists, but a human rights organization decided to take up the case and submitted it to the IACHR for review. The IACHR revoked the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court rejected the request to heed the IACHR’s ruling, on the grounds that it would transform the IACHR into a fourth jurisdiction that could review rulings made by national courts. They reasoned this was contrary to the Inter-American System of Human Rights. In their opinion, the American Convention on Human Rights did not give the IACHR the jurisdiction to revoke national sentences, as this would undermine the Supreme Court’s ability to act as the highest court in the judiciary.

Former Argentinian Supreme Court justice Eugenio Zaffaroni, who presently serves as Judge in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, criticized his former colleagues’ decisions, stating it takes the country a step back in light of the praise Argentinia has received in the past for its advanced jurisprudence.

The ruling throws into question the power of the IACHR to effect meaningful change in the human rights landscape across the Organization of American States. Without the support and deference of the various member states, the effectiveness of the IACHR will be limited. This is of particular concern, considering the nature and frequency of human rights violations in particular areas in the Americas. For a functioning human rights system to be able to effectively carry out its mandate, it is necessary that it be recognized and given due consideration across the various member states.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.