Inter-American Court of Human Rights

It is an autonomous judicial body, of a non-permanent nature, with headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. The purpose of the Inter-American Court is the application and interpretation of the provisions of the ACHR, as well as other international instruments that grant it these powers. The Inter-American Court is made up of seven judges who are nationals of one of the OAS Member States. Judges are elected in a personal capacity and must have the highest moral authority and knowledge of human rights, as well as meet the requirements to occupy the highest judicial functions of their country, or of the country that proposes them. Judges hold office for six years with the possibility of being reelected for a period of equal duration (Statute of the Inter-American Court: Articles 1-5).

The Inter-American Court has two functions (Martin, 2004: 217-270):

i) Contentious. It is the function through which it resolves a dispute alleging alleged violations of human rights recognized in the ACHR, as well as other international instruments that grant it these powers, against a State that has jurisdiction over the territory where the alleged violations occurred. The dispute may be brought before the Inter-American Court by the IACHR or an OAS Member State, as long as said State has previously recognized the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court and the acts were committed after said recognition. In order for the Inter-American Court to hear any matter, it must have previously gone through the individual petitions procedure before the IACHR. The Inter-American Court can issue judgments on preliminary objections, merits, reparations and interpretation of judgments, as well as resolutions on compliance with judgments.

ii) Advisory. It is the function through which the Inter-American Court interprets – at the request of any main body, an OAS Member State – the ACHR or other treaties concerning the protection of human rights in the American States. Likewise, the Inter-American Court, at the request of an OAS Member State, can issue opinions on the compatibility of its internal legislation with the treaties concerning the protection of human rights to which it is a party.

The Inter-American Court also has, within its powers, the possibility of adopting provisional measures (see Provisional Measures).

International Criminal Court

Permanent and independent international institution, competent to prosecute persons allegedly responsible for having committed genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression. Its headquarters are in the city of The Hague, Holland.

The International Criminal Court is an institution with its own international personality and is not part of the UN. The relationship with said organization is regulated by an international agreement approved and signed by the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court – the “legislative” body of the Court – and the UN itself.

Its constitutive treaty is the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was approved on July 1, 1998 by the UN Plenipotentiary Conference for an International Criminal Court (see Plenipotentiaries, conference of), which took place in the city from Rome, Italy. The Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002 and is the result of more than 50 years of international negotiations.

The International Criminal Court has a complementary competence to the national judicial bodies (see Complementarity). The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court will be determined by the place where the events occurred or by the nationality of the alleged perpetrators. In other words, the International Criminal Court may only prosecute crimes that have been committed in the territory of a State Party to the Rome Statute or that have been perpetrated by a national of said States. These elements of competition are not, however, concurrent; in other words, it is enough that one of them is met for the International Criminal Court to have jurisdiction to hear the situation.

The International Criminal Court does not have retroactive jurisdiction, which means that it cannot investigate or prosecute events that occurred prior to the entry into force of the Rome Statute, or those that occurred prior to the date on which the State – in whose territory the crime was committed or whose national is allegedly responsible – has ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute.

Unlike other international courts – such as the International Court of Justice and the Inter-American and European Courts of Human Rights before which States appear – the International Criminal Court is empowered to prosecute people, individuals who, at the time of the commission of the crime, are over 18 years.

A situation in which one or more of the crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court have allegedly been committed may be heard by this institution as long as it is referred by (i) a State Party to the Rome Statute; (ii) the UN Security Council, or (iii) when the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has initiated an investigation ex officio.