Diego García-Sayan: Latin America needs to deal with its human rights past in a court of law

There is a strong urgency in Latin America to deal with the human rights violations of the past in a court of law, said Former Peruvian Foreign and Justice Minister Diego García-Sayan, a newly elected judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights , at a press conference in Helsinki on Tuesday. On his two-day-visit to Finland García-Sayan met, amongst others, former EU ombudsman Jacob Söderman and Erkki Kourula who was recently appointed a judge at the International Criminal Court. The discussions focused on aspects of democracy and justice.

In Finland García-Sayan hoped to gain contacts with democratic institutions, strengthen the ties between Latin America and Finland and gain valuable experience of the EU civil crisis management. García-Sayan explained the latest developments in Latin American countries and expressed his hope that Argentina, currently dismantling the amnesty laws that protected the members of the military junta, would follow the Peruvian example.

García-Sayan told that the former Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori, may be facing extradition to Peru. Fujimori lives currently in exile in Japan. The Peruvian congress decided on Monday to impeach the former president for murders of left-wingers committed under his rule in 1991 and 1992.

"The Inter-American Court made an important decision in December 2001. Firstly, the decision made the Peruvian government responsible for the past crimes and secondly, required those in charge to be prosecuted. Thirdly, the amnesty laws that Fujimori’s government enacted in 1995 in order to protect itself and a paramilitary group were ruled inconsistent with the American Charter of Human Rights", said García-Sayan.

García-Sayan pointed out that the Court handles the cases presented to it, and thus has not an active role in taking up cases. García-Sayan was confident that past injustice in the Latin American countries can and will be corrected in a court of law.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1979 by the Organisation of American States, and is seated in San José, Costa Rica. García-Sayan will start his work at the Inter-American Court next January.