way for the trial and conviction of
accused military officers.
The message is spreading throughout the region. In September 2007,
the Chilean Supreme Court issued a
crucial decision in the fight against
impunity by approving Fujimori’s
extradition to Peru. Chile’s extradition of a former head of state underscores that human rights violators
can no longer avoid justice by simply fleeing across the border.
The Peru and Argentina cases
represent a clear break from the
traditional pattern of impunity
and send a compelling message to
human rights violators. But these
outcomes were reached thanks to
a combination of several factors.
First, in both cases, well-organized
human rights groups went beyond
traditional denunciations to fight
impunity and found support in the
Inter-American system. Second, the
hemisphere now includes governments willing to uphold the rule
of law. Third, the international sys-
tem responsible for protecting human rights did not hesitate to rule
that amnesty laws represent a violation of basic human rights.
This new phenomenon, however, is not yet consistent throughout the region. With different degrees of acceptance, amnesty laws
are still valid in Chile, Uruguay and
El Salvador. In Chile and Uruguay,
at least, governments have taken
several steps to deal with past violations. Chilean President Michelle
Bachelet has publicly declared her
intention to overturn the amnesty
law. Already using loopholes in the
law, Chilean courts have convicted
more than 100 people of crimes under the Pinochet government.
In Uruguay, the government is
finding various loopholes to challenge existing laws, and judicial officials conducted searches for human remains at military posts.
The same cannot be said for El
Salvador. Even today, the government still views the amnesty law
as the cornerstone of the democratic process. No attempts have
been made to derogate it and very
little has been done to deal with
Although mass killings and disappearances are no longer carried
out as state policy, human rights
challenges remain. Torture is a
common interrogation technique.
Moreover, the lack of access to adequate and effective judicial remedies is common.
A future without massive and
systematic violations and where
current challenges are successfully
addressed requires governments
to fight past and present impunity.
The Argentine and Peruvian cases
are a strong step in the right direction. Hopefully, they will soon become the rule for the region.
santiago A. cantón is the Executive
Secretary of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights
of the Organization of American
States (OAS). The opinions expressed
here do not represent the views
of the OAS or the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights.
Making It Transparent
But Keeping It
Efficient In Guatemala
Karen Smith rotabi
Later marriages and lower fertility rates in the United States
have led to an increase in demand for international as well as
domestic adoptions. With increasing red tape and government sensi-tivities tying up the adoption process in regions like Eastern Europe,
Russia and Asia, American couples needed transparency to adoption
have looked to Guatemala as an- procedures, but, in the short term,
other primary source. Since 2000, it may also disappoint would-be
approximately 25,000 Guatemalan parents—and leave children in
children have been adopted abroad, limbo.
over 90 percent of them in the U.S. At first glance, the new stan-
Now the process may slow dards are a major improvement. In
down in Guatemala as well, where May 2007, Guatemala ratified the
the rising volume of adoptions has Hague Convention on Intercoun-been accompanied by local con- try Adoption (HCIA) and in De-troversy and charges of corruption. cember passed legislation to en-The planned implementation of act the HCIA provisions. The HCIA
international standards in Guate- expressly prohibits the theft, sale
mala and the U.S. will bring much- and trafficking of children under