The Role of Reservations and Declarations before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: The Las Hermanas Serrano Cruz Case and the Future of Inter-American Justice


Las Hermanas Serrano Cruz is a landmark case in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because it excludes a large body of arguably valid claims from meaningful adjudication within the inter-American system. In the Las Hermanas Serrano Cruz decision on preliminary objections, the Court upheld El Salvador’s restriction to rationae temporis. Although the State’s restriction was improper both substantively and procedurally, the Court held it to be valid under the American Convention on Human Rights by misclassifying it as a declaration rather than a reservation. This mistake not only proved detrimental to the Las Hermanas Serrano Cruz decision, but also to the future of human rights claims within the inter-American system. This paper will closely evaluate the inconsistencies within the Court’s reasoning, and suggest that at a minimum, the Court amend its procedural allowances for reservations and declarations. In the preferred alternative, serious consideration should be given to prohibiting reservations and declarations to the American Convention in their entirety.


Human Rights Law | International Law

Date of this Version

January 2006