The implementation of reparations in the Inter-American human rights system

Published: Jan 15, 2023
Inter-American System; Reparations; Human Rights; Inter-American Court of Human Rights; Regional Court; International Law; International Responsibility.
Christian G. Sommer
Victorino F. Sola

Reparations as a consequence of the harm suffered by individuals is a general principle of law, recognized by States as a mechanism to compensate for the harm caused by others. In the regional systems for the protection of human rights, the courts have made important advances throughout their operation in generating progressive interpretations of the principle of reparations as a consequence of human rights violations by States. In the inter-American human rights system, the role of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has had an important evolutionary development on the interpretations of how States should repair violations committed in their territories.

As has already been indicated in the international arena as well as by national courts, reparation for the harm caused is not simply the payment of sums of money. This would be the simplest form that States would have for having caused human rights violations or even crimes against humanity. For this reason, the Inter-American Court, since its first case, has been indicating to the States that economic reparation is only one part of the State's obligation to make reparations. The most important judgments that the regional Court has indicated in its 40 years are marked by the so-called “non-pecuniary reparations”. In other words, reparations that seek to ensure that the events that occurred do not happen again, that the States commit to train their officials in human rights and respect for persons, build schools, hospitals, and roads to improve the living conditions of the victims, etc.

For further more about this evolution, this paper develops the main jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court on reparations and how international law has already set important standards to be applied by States.

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