CASE 10.804 (b)
September 22, 1994
March 22, 1991, Mr. Harris H. Whitbeck Piñol filed a petition against
the Government of Guatemala for violating the political rights,
recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights, of himself and 69
National Parliament candidates, when they were not allowed to register
as candidates because the slate of candidates submitted by various
nominating parties whose presidential candidate was General José Efraín
Ríos Montt was rejected. He
stated also that in processing his complaint Guatemalan officials had
denied him his right to personal defense in the proceedings and to an
petitioner set forth the following acts as violating his rights:
decision of the Electoral Tribunal Register of Citizens refusing to
register his candidacy for the vice presidency, because of the rejection
of the entire slate headed by Mr. Ríos Montt as candidate for president.
Mr. Ríos Montt was considered ineligible under Article 186 of
the Constitution (referring to "Any leader or head of a movement
that disturbs the constitutional order or who takes command of the
state on the strength of such movement").
Mr. Whitbeck alleges that that decision deprived him of his right
to participate in the election as candidate for vice president and, of
course, to be elected to that office;
that the nominating parties had likewise been deprived of their
right to participate in the elections, as had the other 69 candidates in
the general elections, and that the voters had been deprived of their
right to elect them.
decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal refusing to process the
appeal for annulment filed by him against the decision referred to in
subparagraph a), and denying his subsequent appeal for review.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal based its decision on the Election
Law provision that only political parties have the legal status to
contest acts of the electoral process, that it could not receive
complaints from individual persons.
Petitioner contends that this violated his right to defense at
trial, in a case affecting the interests of a person who had not been
duly summoned, heard and defeated in proceedings (Article 8 of the
American Convention on Human Rights and 12 of the Guatemalan
judgments of the Constitutional Court of October 19, 1990, in special amparo
proceedings 280-90 and 281-90.
The judgment of the Constitutional Court confirming the ruling of
the Supreme Court on the case, takes the same position as the Supreme
Electoral Tribunal that candidates do not personally register their
candidacy but rather it is the political parties that request such
registration and therefore it is those parties that must represent their
candidates in proceedings, based on Article 250 of the Law on Elections
and Political Parties. Petitioner contends that this article and its application
violate Articles 8.1 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE IACHR
of the instant petition with that of Mr. Rios Montt
The Commission, taking into consideration that the facts and
persons referred to in this petition and in that filed by Mr. Ríos
Montt were the same, and in order to avoid ruling prematurely on the
merits of the case, proceeded to consolidate the processing of the
above-mentioned petition with that filed by Mr. Rios Montt, pursuant to
Article 40.2 of the IACHR Regulations, and the representatives of both
petitioners and of the Guatemalan Government agreed.
However, when the Commission considered the merits of the
petitions, it decided that the characteristics of the two cases were
different, and for the purposes of taking decisions on them, it decided
to separate them, and assigned number 10,804(b) to the present case
referring to Mr. Whitbeck and the other candidates.
of the Government
On April 22, 1991, the Government replied to the combined
petitions, confirming the procedural and electoral facts cited by the
petitioners, stating the various domestic remedies filed by them, and
The laws applied to resolve those proceedings, and the arguments
put forward and conclusions reached by the above-mentioned courts in
their final decisions are clearly stated in their judgments thereon.
The Government states further that "...the arguments
presented by citizen Harris Whitbeck to the Commission are the same as
those he presented to the various Guatemalan authorities...",
and that "...the fact that the decisions were not in his favor does
not imply that justice was denied."
It considers that in none of these acts were any human rights
violated, either those recognized universally, or those recognized by
the Constitution and the American Convention.
The Government requests that the petition be declared
inadmissible as groundless and out of order.
The Government's reply was transmitted to the petitioners on May
21, 1991. Subsequently, Mr.
Whitbeck and his attorneys reiterated and elaborated on their written
arguments in hearings held in the following sessions and requested an
early settlement of their case.
As to admissibility
the Commission is competent to examine the matter of the case because it
concerns violations of the human rights recognized in the American
Convention on Human Rights (Articles 2, 8 and 25 on Judicial Guarantees,
and Article 23 on Political Rights).
the petition meets the formal requirements for admissibility set forth
in the American Convention on Human Rights and in the Commission's
As to the merits:
Commission will address first the matter of the exclusivity of the right
of representation conferred by Guatemalan law on political organizations
to appear before electoral tribunals and courts as participants in
trials of election cases.
Commission has already stated its opinion on the value of the role of
political parties as the legitimate representatives in electoral
proceedings of the individuals who associate themselves legally with
them. In an earlier case of
a similar matter,
the Commission held that parties are institutions needed in
democracy, and agreed with the view of Linares Quintana that:
Modern democracy may be said to be founded on political parties
... At each election the parties choose the candidates from among whom
the voter must choose when he casts his ballot.
In this way they impose order on public opinion, for if citizens
were to vote directly without this advance work of party assurances,
elections would be reduced to chaos and anarchy, votes would be
dispersed in disorder, and those elected would receive so few votes as
to have no representativity whatever.
9. In this
decision the IACHR also recalled that:
in the general run of democratic countries, 'independent' candidates
may only stand for election if they meet certain requirements... regulating
the right to elect and be elected as the candidate of a party or of a
sizable number of electors.
10. The Commission
considers, however, that administrative, electoral or judicial avenues
must always remain open for the party or the individual candidates to
challenge any decision affecting the other candidates.
11. The Supreme Court
of Justice says that in the decisions of the electoral bodies in this
case, "though the nominators (parties) and nominees (candidates)
were not treated the same as the other parties and candidates, this
was because the situation of the former differed from that of the latter
owing to the disqualification of their candidate for the
presidency." (File CSJ 280/90, p. 24).
12. Article 190 of the
Constitution of Guatemala establishes that the Vice President shall be
elected on the same slate as the President of the Republic.
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
the candidacies of president and vice president constitute an
indissoluble unit, commonly known as the presidential slate.
accordingly, the denial based on the lawsuit of one member of that
presidential slate can only be interpreted as a violation of the
political rights of the other member where the law or the interpretation
of it by the electoral organs prohibits or impedes the replacement of
the excluded candidate.
recommend that the Government amend its election laws so as to provide
expressly that candidates who are excluded may be replaced, in order to
avoid unfortunate interpretations of the present law that involve
violation of the political rights set forth in the American Convention.
publish this report pursuant to Article 48 of the Commission's
Regulations and Article 53.1 of the Convention, because the Government
of Guatemala did not adopt measures to correct the situation denounced
within the time period.
"The request is rejected outright because petitioner has no
legal capacity to sue, which inheres only in legal organizations
(political parties -- IACHR note) and their legitimate