Washington - The Caribbean Institute for Human Rights (ICADH, Spanish acronym) asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to consult experts on the issue of colonialism and the transition of territories towards self-government, when deciding on the lawsuits against the United States for the lack of participation of residents of Puerto Rico in the election of federal government officials.
"We have informed (the IACHR) that the situation in Puerto Rico must be considered from a different perspective" to what was the examination of the Washington DC case, said Annette Martínez, director of the ICADH and of the Humans Rights Clinic at the Inter-American University.
Martinez said that they were able to tell the IACHR president, Margarette May Macaulay (Jamaica), the message that those complaints about the political situation in Puerto Rico can have an impact on the examination of other territories in the continent.
"We have had meetings with members and staff of the IACHR, with (May Macaulay). The case may set a precedent in the Americas. The Inter-American system is cited in other international forums," said Martinez, who worked for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), in Washington D.C., and had litigated before the IACHR.
"The issue has broader implications on the development of transition issues of a territory that demands an exercise of self-determination," she added.
Martinez already knew that May Macaulay would ask for more documents related to the case - as "friend of the court" or “amicus curiae” - and affirmed that, as an institution, the IACHR "is not an expert on issues of self-determination" of the nations.
On Friday in Colorado, the IACHR examined the complaints of former Governor Pedro Rosselló González and lawyer Gregorio Igartúa, denouncing that the exclusion of residents of Puerto Rico from presidential elections and not having Congress voting members is a violation of human and civil rights.
May Macaulay – IACHR rapporteur for the U.S. and on poverty issues - was judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights between 2007 and 2012.
At Friday’s session, both May Macaulay and the vice president of the IACHR, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, from Panama, agreed with the complainants that voting "is a fundamental right".
Although the United States expressed at the hearing that the complaints are related to the statehood proposal for Puerto Rico and that there is no consensus on the island regarding the status, May Macaulay said that the IACHR will decide based on the claims on the right to vote.
Orlando Vidal, lawyer for former Governor Rosselló González, said that several entities have already submitted documents from "friends" of the process, including the island's legislativechambers.
"The more information the Commission has, the better. We are totally confident - and the expressions of the commissioners confirm our hopes - that in the end we will prevail," said Vidal.
The Junte de Mujeres (Women’s Group) Meeting 2018 also sent a letter to the IACHR in which they maintained that the complainants "intend to transform" the unfinished business of Puerto Rico's self-determination "into a matter of human rights of US citizens," with the objective of " validating the imposition of annexation".
Pro-statehood sectors have criticized the participation of the Junte de Mujeres, which brings together sovereignist leaders. "The claim of the petitioners before the IACHR is not one based on the 'political status' of Puerto Rico, but rather on the lack of basic and democratic human rights," said the permanent delegate to the Democratic Party of the United States, Luis Dávila Pernas, who atttended the hearing of Friday.
During the session, the US ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, stated that residents of Puerto Rico who want to vote in US elections can move to one of the 50 states. Any decision of the IACHR - as in the case of 2003 in favor of Washington D.C.- is not binding on the United States.
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