Inter-American Court of Human Rights Protest of its Budget Freeze by the Organization of Amercian States.

Dear Secretary General:

The undersigned Judges and Executive Directors of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have the honor to address Your Excellency, for the purpose making clear that the Court and all of our personnel will not accept responsibility for the institutional collapse that will occur beginning in the year 2004, owing to the serious budgetary restrictions that have been imposed upon the Tribunal.

On October 17, 2002, the Court's President, Judge Antônio A. Cançado Trindade, gave a detailed statement before the Permanent Counsel (OEA/SER.G CP/doc.2654/02), and on several other occasions over the last four years during OAS proceedings, in which he expressed the Court's concern as to the imminent increase in the number of cases that the Inter-American Commission would submit to the Tribunal beginning in the year 2003, due to the Commission's new Rules of Procedure, effective May 1, 2001.

The General Secretariat's reaction to the President's statement and to the General Assembly resolutions 1827, 1828, 1850 and 1890 - which ordered a substantial increase in the Court's budget with the objective of strengthening its work, reiterated by the General Assembly in that year through the resolutions 1918 and 1925 - was to announce to the Permanent Council in March of this year, in a statement given by the Sub-Secretary of Administration, Mr. James R. Harding, that US $1,000,000.00 (one million dollars) had been budgeted for the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights, of which US $400,000.000 (four hundred thousand dollars) would be allocated to the Court to increase its regular budget for the year 2004. However, the Commission of Administrative and Budgetary Matters submitted to the General Assembly in June of the present year a draft budget for the year 2004 that not only failed to increase the Court's budget, but instead reduced it by the amount of US $25,364.00 (twenty five thousand three hundred sixty four dollars), effective from the year 2003, for the purpose of financing an increase in the salaries of General Secretariat personnel in Washington, D.C., post adjustment. The General Secretariat informed the Tribunal of this reduction on May 13th of this year.

November 20, 2003

His Excellency
César Gaviria Trujillo, Secretary General
Organization of American States
Washington, D.C.

On May 22, 2003, the Court's President personally delivered a letter to the General Secretariat, in which he expressed his deep concern regarding the budgetary decision and requested a reallocation of the amount by which the budget was reduced. The Court made the same request through its letter dated June 9, 2003, which the Court's Judges personally delivered to Your Excellency in Santiago de Chile. The General Secretariat's response to the Court's correspondence consisted in a letter dated August 5, 2003, in which the Sub-Secretary of Administration, Mr. James R. Harding, refers to the Permanent Council's resolution CP/RES.845 dated April 23, 2003. This resolution authorized the modification of the draft budget approved by the General Assembly in the year 2003, owing to "an inflexible budgetary crisis that impedes the Secretary General from satisfying the request that the Court has formulated."

Considering the General Assembly's reiterated orders that the Court's budget be substantially increased, which constitute decisions of the OAS's highest political organ, and following at the same time the directives of the Summit of the Americas held in Canada in the year 2001, it does not seem appropriate to this Tribunal that it received a response of a merely technical nature from an official of the General Secretariat, and no response from the Secretary General himself, who is the actual individual responsible for making crucial policy decisions within General Secretariat. And the Tribunal views it even more objectionable that its request for funding not be met, when it was the very General Assembly that in the year 2000 ordered the reform of the Rules of Procedure of the Court and of the Commission which will cause an increase in the number of cases submitted to the Court. The aforementioned modifications in the rules were carried out with the common understanding that they would be duly accompanied by a substantial increase in the Court's budget.

That critical moment has arrived, Your Excellency. As you well know, a Tribunal that holds sessions only eight weeks a year, that already does not have sufficient personnel to attend to that work volume, and that must dedicate half of its time to obtaining evidence (public hearings), is in no condition to handle adequately the functions that it has been charged with as an International Tribunal. For this reason, the Court must be candid and express with total clarity that the system is on the verge of collapse. The old adage "justice delayed is justice denied" is at the point of becoming reality in our own Inter-American System.

For all of the foregoing reasons, we call upon the Secretary General and, through his good offices, upon all of the OAS Member States, so that the commitment to strengthen the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights, so repeatedly expressed, be transformed into reality. This will ensure that this System, which has given so much prestige and credibility to the Organization that you direct, does not lose its legitimacy before the men and women of our Hemisphere.

We will send a copy of this letter to the President of the Permanent Council, as well as to all of the Permanent Representatives of the OAS Member States.

We take this opportunity to express to Your Excellency the assurances of our highest and most distinguished consideration.

Antônio A. Cançado Trindade,
Sergio García Ramírez,
Máximo Pacheco Gómez,
Hernán Salgado Pesantes,
Oliver Jackman,
Alirio Abreu Burelli,
Carlos Vicente de Roux,
Manuel E. Ventura Robles,
Pablo Saavedra Alessandri,
Arturo Herrera Porras.

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Este documento ha sido publicado el 13dic03 por el Equipo Nizkor y Derechos Human Rights