Press release

Human Rights Commission Asked to Uphold Right to Information in Chile

Date
February 23, 2005
Contact
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NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative and three partner organizations Tuesday urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to uphold the right to information in a case against Chile.

The case, Claude and Others v. Chile, involves a government agency's refusal to release information requested by an environmental nongovernmental organization regarding a major logging project, known as the Condor River project. In December 1998 a number of South American rights groups filed a petition with the commission on behalf of the requestors. This is the first case before the commission involving the right of general access to state-held information.

The Justice Initiative and three other groups—ARTICLE 19, Libertad de Información México, and the Lima—based Press and Society Institute jointly filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of the case, which will be heard by the commission in its regular winter session that started Tuesday. The four organizations are committed to promotion of the right to information in the Americas and beyond.

"This case gives the commission an opportunity to uphold the right of people throughout the Americas to know what their governments are up to," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative, which led the effort. "A ruling in favor of the right to information would be a ruling for democratic accountability and good governance throughout the hemisphere," Goldston said.

The brief filed by the four groups argues that Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights guarantees everyone's right to access information held by public authorities. The brief goes on to assert that the Chilean government has failed to give effect to this right in domestic law, and violated the requestors' Article 13 rights in the case at issue.

The information requestors, who were affiliated with the Santiago-based Terram Foundation, asked the Chilean Foreign Investment Committee to provide information collected by the committee on the environmental and general track record of the company behind the Condor River project. The request went unanswered by the committee and the requestors' appeals to Chile's courts were summarily dismissed.

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