1983

IACHR

Restrictions to the death penalty (art 4,2; 4,4 ACHR) Advisory opinion

4,2 death penalty can be impose for most serious crimes, application of such punishment cannot be extended to crimes which it does not presently apply 4,4 no death penalty to political offences or related crimes Inter American Commission of Human Rights asked: - May a government [Guatemala] apply death penalty to crimes for which the domestic legislation did not provide such punishment at the time of ACHR entered into force to that state - May a government, based on reservation to 4,4 adopt, subsequent to the time of ACHR entered into force to that state, modify its legislation so to apply death penalty Resolution: Since art 27 Convention allows the States to suspend, in time of war, public danger, or other emergency the obligations that they assume, provided that in doing so they do not suspend or derogate from certain basic or essential rights, among them the right to life guaranteed by art 4. It would follow therefore that a reservation which was designed to enable a state to suspend any of non-derogable fundamental rights must be deemed to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the

Convention, and consequently, not merely to restrict certain aspects of a non-derogable right without depriving the right as a whole of it basic purpose. Since the reservation referred to by the Commission in its submission does not appear to be of a type that is design to denied the right to life as such the Court concludes that to that extent it can be considered, in principle as not being incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention. (62) Reservations have the effect of excluding or modifying the provisions of a treaty and they become an integral part thereof as between the reserving state and any other states for whom they are in force. Therefore, without dealing anew with the question of reciprocity as it relates to reservations which, moreover, is not fully applicable as far as human rights treaties are concerned, it must be concluded that any meaningful interpretation of a treaty also calls for an interpretation of any reservation made thereto. Reservations must of necessity therefore also be interpreted by reference to the relevant principles of GIL and the special rules set out in the convention itself. (63) a reservation must be interpreted by examining its text in accordance with the ordinary meaning which must be attributed to the terms in which it has been formulated within the general context of the treaty of which the reservation form an integral part. This approach must be followed except ambiguous, obscure meaning would lead to a result absurd or unreasonable.