Uruguay Nominates Ariela Peralta Distefano for ICC Judge

This blog is part of a series highlighting local perspectives about ICC judicial nominations, including the candidate’s qualifications and the process that led to their nomination. By hosting this series, the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) seeks to provide a platform for local actors with knowledge of that background to inform a wider international audience. OSJI does not necessarily endorse the views expressed. OSJI has offered an opportunity to civil society groups from all nominating states to express their views.

Humanity is going through difficult times. The ongoing pandemic has put states, governments and societies to the test. Human rights are again under attack, this time under the guise of an emergency healthcare response.

In this context, International Criminal Court (ICC) elections of new judges and of a new prosecutor presents a special opportunity. Strengthening the ICC requires civil society’s careful analysis and consideration of judicial and prosecutorial candidates, as well as of the processes leading to their nomination.

Ms. Ariela Peralta Distefano’s nomination is important. She undoubtedly possesses the qualifications, experience, and technical and moral features for the role of ICC judge. Her experience at the national and international level demonstrates her passion for international law and human rights law, which she has practiced with a sense of fairness and independence.

There are three particular elements of her experience that I can attest to.

The fight against impunity in Uruguay

I worked with Ms. Peralta upon my return from a long exile in Argentina during which I had been an active collaborator of the Center of Legal and Social Studies and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. She led the legal work of the Peace and Justice Service of Uruguay for 10 years, where she worked on cases of human rights violations throughout the country. She was also Executive Secretary of the Peace and Justice Service for Latin America.

I could witness her dedication to the defense of human rights in a context of impunity. There have been numerous violations during the military dictatorship, and both the legislation in place at the time and then-political parties supported impunity for the perpetrators. Ms. Peralta’s contribution was key in the pursuit of justice and reparations for those crimes, and her work paved the way for accountability. As such, she contributed to a democratic order based on justice during a critical time in our country.

The Inter-American Human Rights System

Ms. Peralta has proven experience in litigation before the Inter-American human rights system. She was the Deputy Director of the Center for Justice and International Law, where she litigated complex international cases. One such case was Gelman v. Uruguay, where the Inter-American Court of Human Rights rendered a landmark decision ordering Uruguay to reinstate criminal prosecution for the crimes committed the military dictatorship. 

In my capacity as Permanent Representative of Uruguay before the Organization of American States, I witnessed Ms. Peralta’s advocacy for the universality of the Inter-American human rights system, the independence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and active civil society participation in the dialogue with states. Her intervention was crucial during a time when the system’s basic pillars were at stake.

Uruguay’s National Human Rights Institution and Ombudsperson Office

From 2012 until 2017, Ms. Peralta was a board member and then President of the Uruguay’s National Human Rights Institute and Ombudsperson Office (INDDHH). During my tenure as Secretary General of the National Drug Board, I benefited from Ms. Peralta active role in addressing issues of access to healthcare by drug users, detainee rights, and the respect for the rule of law in the fight against organized crime. In that capacity, she also played an important role in Uruguay’s participation during the 2016 Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem.

Uruguay’s National Nomination Process

In 2006, Uruguay became the first Latin American country to adopt a national cooperation law on the ICC (Law 18.026). This law not only implements the Rome Statute domestically, but it also adopts obligations stemming from other international treaties on human rights and international humanitarian law.

The law provides for a rigorous national nomination process that allows for the participation of different actors and requires parliamentary approval. For the 2020 elections, Ms. Peralta was nominated by civil society organizations active in the fight against impunity and in women’s and children’s rights. She then received parliamentary approval and was nominated by the government.

Uruguay has long supported multilateralism and the development of a rules-based international legal order. A recent declaration of the Foreign Ministry in the context of the day of international justice confirms Uruguay longstanding support to the ICC.

Milton Romani Gerner is a Psychologist, University teacher, Ambassador. Former Secretary General of the National Drug Board Presidency of the Republic. Former ambassador to international drug organizations. Former Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the OAS

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