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2 historical court decisions in favour of democracy

On September 15 is celebrated the International Day of Democracy. For that reason, here we present you 2 important court decisions in favour of democracy in Latin America

2 historical court decisions in favour of democracy

"The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures." With these words, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes in its article 21 what democracy is and where the power of our rulers emanates from.

Leer en español: Día Internacional de la Democracia: 2 fallos históricos de la OEA

However, just as the United Nations safeguards world democracy, the organization that is willing to ensure the interests of democracy in the Americas is the Organization of American States (OAS). On September 15 is celebrated the International Day of Democracy. Therefore, here we present you two rulings issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH), an organization attached to the OAS.

Colombia: Gustavo Petro's case

According to Semana magazine, on September 12, 2013, the then mayor of the capital of the coffee country was dismissed because of the scandal that prompted the change in the garbage collection model. This is a business that was delivered to a public company instead of private companies, as was usual.

After that change from a private to a public company, private institutions decided to cease their garbage collection activities, which generated a problem of public health in many areas of Bogotá.

Therefore, the then Colombian prosecutor, Alejandro Ordoñez, decided to dismiss Gustavo Petro from his position as mayor of the capital and disqualified him from running for public office for 15 years. According to Semana, this ruling was a novelty in Colombia, where only the pronouncement of the then president of the nation, Juan Manuel Santos, could remove Petro from his position.

However, before that pronouncement, the then mayor took his case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) on the grounds that Ordóñez's ruling was generated by his political tendency.

On March 19, 2014, Santos complied with the ruling of the Attorney General and dismissed the mayor during the morning hours of that Tuesday. But in an unusual incident, that same day the IACHR granted precautionary measures for Gustavo Petro, who argued that his fundamental right to free political choice was being violated, considering that the prosecutor took this decision for the political interests that Petro represented, stated the same media.

The IACHR affirmed that the former mayor should remain in office until there was a substantive ruling, so Juan Manuel Santos, hours later, recognized the undisputed authority of the OAS and returned Petro to the city of Bogotá.

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This ruling is historical not because of the people who were involved, but because of what the ruling itself represents: a fundamental right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the political rights of man. As Aristotle pointed out: "The man is a political animal".

With this ruling it became clear that a fundamental right of man and democracy is his political vocation, contrary to what many people believe.

Brazil: modern slavery?

According to the OAS news center, one of the rulings that has been historic for the IACHR was the case of Brazil against the Green Brazil Fazenda. Since 1989, both the OAS authorities and the Brazilian authorities have collected evidence that hinted at the exploitation of thousands of Brazilians living in precarious conditions.

"The affected group is made up mostly of men between 15 and 40 years of age, Afro-descendants and blacks from the poorest states of the country and with less job prospects. The situation of extreme and special vulnerability of this group is due, among others, to the lack of adequate and effective resources that protect their rights not only formally; the extreme poverty in which a large part of the population of the states of which they are native live," said the OAS.

The IACHR found the Green Brazil Fazenda responsible for the irregular hiring of thousands of workers in irregular conditions, such as lack of payments, indebtedness, death threats, mistreatment, lack of food and unhealthy conditions.

The same body found this practice as modern-day slavery and blamed the Brazilian state for violating the fundamental rights of man, the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental rights contemplated in the OAS.

According to the OAS news center, this case clearly represents an act of racism, discrimination, slavery and the affectation of a vulnerable population. For this reason, the IACHR ordered the State of Brazil to repair both those affected morally and economically and punish those responsible for these atrocious cases with the law.

With this two cases it is clear that democracy must have minimum parameters for its functioning, such as respect for the fundamental rights of man, non-discrimination, rejection of racism and free expression. Without these minimum rights a democracy cannot be formed and in these two cases the OAS acted as guarantor of it.

LatinAmerican Post | Miguel Díaz

Translated from "Día Internacional de la Democracia: 2 fallos históricos de la OEA"