Due to persistent and systematic human rights violations, lawsuits have
increasingly been brought before various Latin American courts. In some
cases, courts have made pioneering rulings ordering governments to
allocate budget resources and implement specific public policies aimed
at enforcing and protecting human rights. This Brief focuses on three
successful cases from Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, where the
judiciary made innovative rulings to restore and enforce the right to
education, to an adequate policy for internally displaced people and to
health, respectively. In particular, this Brief highlights the way that
judicial reviews are transforming processes of justice in Latin America,
including the role of judges as agents of social change and the
importance of organised coalitions in providing legal support to
victims. Since judicial reviews have evolved considerably in Latin
America over recent years, human rights practitioners from other regions
will likely benefit from learning about the particular characteristics
of this phenomenon in Latin America.
Judicial rulings can provide an effective tool for enforcing and
restoring human rights, particularly if they clearly specify the actions
that the state should implement and a timeline for doing so.
Rulings are most likely to be fulfilled if the judiciary maintains the
jurisdiction to monitor compliance and creates monitoring systems and
mechanisms for public participation. Continuous monitoring by the court
maintains pressure on the government to act, while participatory
mechanisms ensure that plaintiffs and public agencies have a space for
Writs of amparo or injunctions are more likely to be compelling if they
are grounded in strong legal arguments of human rights violations and in
sound evidence of the nature and impact of these violations.
Social mobilisation and support can put pressure on the judiciary and
get human rights onto the public agenda, enhancing the chances of a
Oropeza, J. ELLA Policy Brief: Judicial Reviews: An Innovative Mechanism to Enforce Human Rights in Latin America. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 7 pp.