I/A Court H.R., Case of Castañeda Gutman v. Mexico. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs. Judgment of August 6, 2008. Series C No. 184.

Non official brief

 

This summary is also published in the website of the Council of Europe in the following link: www.venice.coe.int/files/Bulletin/B2008-3-e.pdf

 

Headnotes:

 

Limiting the recourse of amparo to certain subjects is not incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights as long as another recourse of a similar nature exists to protect rights not covered by the former, particularly those of a political nature.

 

Judicial authorities must be legally competent to review the constitutionality of laws that allegedly infringe upon a person's rights.

 

The effective exercise of political rights is an end in itself, as well as a fundamental means of protection of all other rights in democratic societies.

 

States have a positive obligation to guarantee the right to participate in government, which includes the right to participate in electoral processes, through legislation, the creation of infrastructure necessary to exercise such rights, and through other measures.

 

The American Convention on Human Rights establishes certain standards within which States can and should legitimately regulate political rights. Such regulations must comply with the principle of legality, further legitimate ends, and be necessary, proportional, and narrowly tailored to a public need, in accordance with the principles of representative democracy.

 

 

Summary:

 

 I.  On 5 March 2004, Jorge Castañeda Gutman filed a request to be registered as an independent candidate in the elections for the Presidency of Mexico. The Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral, hereinafter, "IFE") replied that his candidacy could not be considered because it was submitted extemporaneously and because Article 175 of the Federal Code on Electoral Processes and Institutions (hereinafter, "electoral code") provides that only political parties may present candidates for elected offices. Mr Castañeda then sought a writ of amparo from the Seventh Administrative Court of the Federal District. That Court rejected the action, stating the application of the law in question could only be challenged through an action claiming its unconstitutionality. The Supreme Court of Justice confirmed the dismissal.

 

On 21 March 2007, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter, "the Commission") filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereinafter, "the Court") against the State of Mexico to determine the State's responsibility for the alleged violation of Article 25 ACHR (Right to Judicial Protection), in relation to Article 1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights) and Article 2 ACHR (Domestic Legal Effects). Additionally, the representatives of the victims alleged violations of Article 23 ACHR (Right to Participate in Government) and Article 24 ACHR (Right to Equal Protection), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR.

 

II.  In its Judgment of 6 August 2008, the Court first rejected the State's preliminary objection that Article 175 was not applied to Mr Castañeda, citing his rejected registration as a candidate and the pronouncements of the domestic courts. It also rejected the State's second and third objections, holding that re-submitting a request at the appropriate time did not constitute a remedy to be exhausted, and that the effectiveness of a remedy provided for under Mexican law was an issue to be decided on the merits. Finally, the Court rejected the State's fourth objection, holding that the Commission had proceeded in accordance with its rules of procedure and that the State's right of defence had not been impaired.

 

Additionally, the Court held that the State violated Article 25 ACHR, in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, because it failed to offer Mr Castañeda any recourse for the protection of his political right to be elected, despite that the recourse of amparo was limited by subject matter and that no mechanism existed under Mexican law to allow an individual to initiate an action of unconstitutionality against the law in question. Thus, the lack of an effective judicial recourse also constituted a failure of the State to adapt its domestic legislation to the requirements of the American Convention on Human Rights, a violation of Article 2 ACHR.

 

On the other hand, the Court found that the State had shown that the registration of candidates for office through the organisation of political parties responds to the social necessities of Mexico. Thus, Article 175 of the Electoral Code pursued a legitimate end that addressed a public need, and was narrowly tailored and proportionate to that need, in accordance with Article 23 ACHR.

 

Finally, the Court held that because local and national elections are not of the same nature, differences in their organisation do not necessarily violate Article 24 ACHR. In this case, it was not shown that the differences in question were discriminatory.

 

Consequently, the Court ordered the State to adapt its legislation to the requirements of the American Convention on Human Rights and publish pertinent parts of the Judgment in its Official Gazette and another newspaper of national circulation, and to pay Mr Castañeda's legal costs and expenses.