Colombia will not attend a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) scheduled for Monday in Washington over the impeachment of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro.
The South American country’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the IACHR on Thursday asking the hearing be canceled. According to the government, the hearing “makes no sense”, as President Juan Manuel Santos already firmly rejected the Commission’s precautionary measures on behalf of Petro Wednesday.
The “precautionary measures” of the IACHR are in place to protect an individual’s human rights as per the Inter-American convention, which Colombia signed. The convention, to which all member governments are required to adhere, states that a popularly elected official cannot be removed from office by administrative decision. Santos’ decision to ignore the precautionary measures puts Colombia in direct violation of the IACHR.
According to Santos, the IACHR only has a “complementary” purpose and the Colombian government is not bound by their decisions.
“Precautionary measures are not mandates towards states,” Foreign Minister Maria Holguin stated; “for this reason, they are not obligatory, and for this same reason the Commission ‘requests’ the country, and does not say it ‘must comply’ or that it ‘is required’ to.”
In its Tuesday ruling, the IACHR did not “request,” but “ordered” Colombia to “immediately suspend the effects of the decision of December 9 2013, emitted and ratified by the Inspector General’s office January 13, 2014, in order to guarantee the exercise of political rights of Mr. Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego and allow him to complete the period of time, for which he was elected to serve as the mayor of Bogota on October 30 2011.”
The Colombian government claimed that the hearing is only being held to discuss the Commission’s protective measures in favor of Petro. However, Executive Secretary of the IACHR Emilio Alvarez said on Tuesday that although the hearing will touch on the issue of the mayor’s dismissal, the broader issue at hand is the possible over-reach of administrative power of the Colombian authorities.
Although the Commission has not yet responded to the Foreign Ministry’s request, it is almost certain that the hearing will be not be canceled or affected by the absence of Colombian representatives. The most likely outcome is that the current ambassador Andres Gonzalez will read a statement expressing the Colombian position, and then leave the premises.