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The Politics of Friendly Settlements in the Inter-American System of Human Rights

Francisco López-Bermúdez, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Some universal and regional human rights treaties make it possible for individuals to file petitions against the State. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) is the quasi-judicial body in charge of examining such petitions in the Inter-American System. These petitions can follow a litigious route or end in a friendly settlement. Nowadays, the petition system occupies most of the time of the IACHR, and its rising caseload even risks collapsing the system. With a focus on indigenous peoples’ cases in Paraguay, the purpose of this work is to understand why the intervention of the IACHR enabled a friendly settlement in certain cases, while it did not in others. Paraguay is a critical case. First, it is one of the countries with the most pronounced land monopolies in the world. Second, its indigenous population represents only 1.74% of the total population, and has never had political representation, making them even more vulnerable. Consequently, the relationship between this population and the State is particularly asymmetrical. I offer a Mediation-Resource Theory of Friendly Settlements based on the resources available to each of the parties involved (petitioner, State, and IACHR). Drawing on qualitative data, including unique in-depth elite interviews, I present evidence suggesting that a friendly settlement will be more likely if the IACHR takes on the role of an active mediator. The evidence also suggests that the most important resource available to the petitioners was the IACHR itself. Therefore, the likelihood that petitioners settle will dramatically increase if the IACHR favors that route. Finally, the study suggests the importance of considering political and economically powerful actors with enough leverage to hinder or even thwart the achievement of a friendly settlement. This study aims at contributing to the scholarship in social movements, courts, and conflict resolution, and to the understanding of the actual procedure in the IACHR petition system. Thereby, it has the potential of having academic, practical and policy implications for the realization of human rights.

Subject Area

Political science|International Relations|International law

Recommended Citation

López-Bermúdez, Francisco, "The Politics of Friendly Settlements in the Inter-American System of Human Rights" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28088897.