IACtHR to Hear Cases Involving Extrajudicial Killings in Peru, Guatemala, and Venezuela during 102nd Regular Session

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hear expert and witness testimony in three pending cases concerning extrajudicial executions, convene two private hearings on States’ compliance with prior decisions, and deliberate on the merits of two cases concerning alleged criminal due process violations during its ongoing 102nd Regular Session, being held from January 27 through February 7 at its headquarters in San Jose, Costa Rica. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in sessionCredit: IACtHR
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in session
Credit: IACtHR

This week, the Inter-American Court is holding public hearings in three pending cases: Cruz Sanchez et al. v. Peru (February 3rd and 4th), Gudiel Ramos et al. v. Guatemala (February 5th), and Landaeta Mejias Brothers et al. v. Venezuela (February 6th).  In each case, the tribunal will hear testimony from  witnesses and/or expert witnesses, as well as the final arguments of the parties and the final observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The hearings will be webcast live on the Court’s webpage and later archived in its Multimedia Gallery.

Cruz Sanchez et al. v. Peru

The case of Cruz Sanchez et al. v. Peru concerns the alleged extrajudicial execution on April 22, 1997 of three members of the armed group Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA) as part of the Peruvian military’s Operation Chavín de Huántar to retake the Japanese Embassy in Lima, which had been seized – along with 72 hostages – by the MRTA on December 17, 1996.

The petitioners alleged that the three victims were killed by Peruvian agents only after being taken into custody when they no longer presented a threat, and the bodies were buried mostly anonymously without proper autopsies. They further alleged that Peruvian authorities had failed to carry out an effective investigation. Although a criminal investigation had been opened in 2002, it was transferred from the civilian to the military jurisdiction before being dismissed in 2004, and a separate investigation into high-level military and intelligence officials’ responsibility remained pending as of December 2011. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights admitted the initial petition in 2004 and adopted its merits report in 2011, finding Peru internationally responsible for violations of articles 4 (right to life), 8 (judicial guarantees), and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human RightsSee IACHR, Report No. 66/10, Case 12.444, Eduardo Nicolas Cruz Sanchez et al. (Peru), 31 March 2011; Report No. 13/04, Petition 136/03, Eduardo Nicolas Cruz Sanchez et al. (Peru), 27 February 2004.

Gudiel Ramos et al. v. Guatemala

In the case Gudiel Ramos et al. v. Guatemala, the petitioners have alleged that Guatemalan authorities failed to prevent the assassination of human rights defender Florentín Gudiel Ramos on December 20, 2004, despite known threats to his life, and that the subsequent investigation was flawed and not carried out within a reasonable time. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] These circumstances allegedly forced the family to flee for their own safety.

The Inter-American Commission has alleged that Guatemala is additionally responsible for failing to guarantee enjoyment of Article 23 (political rights), in that Mr. Gudiel’s death made it impossible for both Mr. Gudiel and his daughter to continue their political activities as government officials. [IACHR Press Release] In its admissibility report, the Commission See IACHR, Report No. 109/10, Petition 1420-05, Florentin Gudiel Ramos, Makrina Gudiel Alvarez et al. (Guatemala), 8 September 2010.

The admissibility report also notes that Mr. Gudiel Ramos was the father of José Miguel Gudiel Álvarez, a named victim in the “Diario Militar” case, which involved the forced disappearance of 26 people – mostly students and teachers – at the hands of Guatemalan authorities in 1983-84, and was decided by the Inter-American Court in 2012. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Gudiel Álvarez et al. (“Diario Militar”) v. Guatemala. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 20, 2012. Series C No. 253.  At the time of his death, Florentín Gudiel Ramos was seeking justice for his son’s disappearance.

Landaeta Mejias Brothers et al. v. Venezuela

In the case of the Landaeta Mejias Brothers et al. v. Venezuela, it is alleged that two teenaged brothers, Igmar Alexander and Eduardo Jose, were unlawfully killed by security forces in 1996 within a larger context of extrajudicial killings in the state of Aragua, Venezuela.  [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]  The Commission alleges that both murders have yet to be adequately investigated, and found Venezuela responsible for violations of the brothers’ rights to life, human treatment, personal liberty and special protection of children (in the case of Eduardo Jose), and of their family members’ rights to humane treatment, due process, and judicial protection. [IACHR Press Release]

In its merits report, the Commission reportedly recommended that Venezuela:

…conduct a complete, impartial, effective, and timely investigation of the human rights violations described in the report […]; to conduct these investigations in such a way as to establish the links between each of the events covered in this report, as well as between those events and the more general context of violence and extrajudicial executions committed by the regional police; to provide appropriate administrative, disciplinary, and criminal measures to address the actions and omissions of the State officials who contributed to justice denied and impunity surrounding the facts in this case; to make adequate reparations for the human rights violations in material and moral terms; and to provide mechanisms to prevent repetition, including training programs directed to the Aragua State Police on international human rights standards and with respect to children and adolescents, among others.

[IACHR Press Release] See IACHR, Report No. 23/07, Petition 435-06, Eduardo Jose Landaeta Mejias and Others (Venezuela), 9 March 2007; Report No. 22/09, Petition 908-04, Igmar Alexander Landaeta Mejias and Others (Venezuela), 20 March 2009.

Other Matters under Consideration

The Inter-American Court will hold private deliberations with a view to preparing its judgments on the merits in two other pending cases: Liakat Ali Alibux v. Suriname and Norin Catriman et al. (Lonkos, Leaders and Activists of the Mapuche Indigenous Peoples) v. Chile. The former involves the prosecution of Suriname’s former Minister of Natural Resources on forgery charges.  The Inter-American Commission found that Liakat Ali Alibux “did not have a remedy to appeal his conviction; that he did not have access to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the Act under which he was tried; that said Act was applied ex post facto; and that the restriction on his ability to leave the country was disproportionate.” [IACHR Press ReleaseSee also IACHR, Report No. 101/11, Case 12,608, Liakat Ali Alibux (Suriname), 22 July 2011; IACHR, Report No. 34/07, Petition 661-03, Liakat Ali Alibux (Suriname), 9 March 2007.

The case of Norin Catriman et al. concerns the prosecution of a number of members of the Mapuche indigenous community on terrorism charges. The Commission alleges that Chile “applied a criminal law that ran contrary to the principle of legality, with a series of irregularities that affected due process, and took into consideration the victims’ ethnic origin in a way that was unjustified and discriminatory—all in a context in which Chile’s antiterrorist law was applied selectively to the detriment of members of the Mapuche indigenous people.” [IACHR Press ReleaseSee also IACHR, Report No. 89/06, Petition 619-03, Aniceto Norin Catriman and Pascual Pichun Paillalao (Chile), 21 October 2006.

Finally, the Court will hold private hearings to review compliance with its previous judgments and provisional measures in the cases of Garcia Prieto et al. v. El Salvador, involving the inadequate investigation of Mr. Prieto’s murder and threats to his relatives,  and Case of the Massacre of la Rochela v. Colombia, concerning a massacre carried out in 1989 by paramilitaries with the cooperation of State agents. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Garcia Prieto et al. v. El Salvador. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 20, 2007. Series C No. 168; Case of the Rochela Massacre v. Colombia. Merits, Reparations, and Costs. Judgment of 11 May 2007. Series C No. 163.