Two previous right-wing governments in Latin America and one from the left have been found responsible by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for violating the rights of its citizens. On Tuesday, the court asked the current governments of Ecuador, Argentina and Guatemala to pursue justice and make reparations in the cases.
The government of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was found responsible of violating the right to free expression and for prosecuting a journalist who had criticized him in an editorial. The editors and publisher of the newspaper were also sued.
Journalist Emilio Palacio and executives Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, César Enrique Pérez and Carlos Eduardo Pérez were convicted of defaming Correa in a 2011 column printed in the Guayaquil newspaper El Universo. They were sentenced to jail and fined $30 million. Instead of standing trial, Palacios fled the country and lived in exile for seven years.
Although Correa later issued a pardon to those convicted, the court said no pardon was needed since no crime was committed and that “irreparable” harm had been done not only the individuals accused but to the institution of the free press.
Correa also sued El Universo and cartoonist Bonil in 2014 for a cartoon the president considered “disrespectful” to him and the office of the presidency.
In its decision, the human rights court said the article was an opinion piece protected by Ecuador’s constitution and was part of the free and open “democratic debate.” It recommended that the current government guarantee that such abuse of power is not repeated and those accused are fully exonerated,
Palacio expressed satisfaction with the court decision but said it can’t “undo” the damage of 10 years ago. “I appreciate the fact that the court condemned Correa and his government and take some pleasure that I am now a free man while he is a fugitive from justice in Europe.”
In other action, the court found the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983 responsible for the disappearance of a married couple and the kidnapping of their children. It also condemned Guatemala’s right-wing dictatorship of the 1980s for killing dozens of innocent civilians.
The court, based in Costa Rica, ruled that Argentina’s military authorities systematically took and adopted the children of suspected leftists who had been arrested and presumably killed in Operation Condor, which was supported by the U.S. and allied right-wing governments in Latin America.
Specifically, the court said the Argentine government should make reparations to the son and daughter of Mario Roger Julien Cáceres and Victoria Lucía Grisonas Andrijauskaite, saying it had unjustifiably delayed efforts to make clear the couple’s disappearance. It stated the current government should renew efforts to find the bodies of Cáceres and Andrijauskaite.
The Guatemala case concerned a military bloodbath of at least 38 men, women and children in the village of Los Josefinos, on April 30, 1982. It accused former officials of conducting a “scorched-earth campaign” to wipe out suspected leftist rebels and their supporters. Other villagers fled, eventually finding refuge in other countries.
The court urged the current governments of Argentina and Guatemala to reopen legal cases to punish the guilty.