I/A Court H.R., Case of La Cantuta v. Peru. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 29, 2006. Series C No. 162.

Non official brief

This summary is also published in the website of the Council of Europe in the following link: https://www.venice.coe.int/files/Bulletin/B2007-3-e.pdf




When a detention is not ordered by a competent authority and its aim is not to bring a person before a judge or another official authorised by law to rule on the legality of the arrest, but to execute them or force their disappearance, the detention is of an obvious illegal and arbitrary nature in violation of Article 7 ACHR (personal liberty).


A prompt, serious, impartial and effective ex officio investigation is a fundamental and conditioning element for the protection of certain rights that are otherwise affected or annulled by such violations as the right to life, personal liberty and personal integrity.


The jurisdiction of military criminal courts must be restrictive and exceptional, and they must only judge military men for the commission of crimes or offences that due to their nature may affect any interest of a military nature. When the military courts assume jurisdiction over a matter that should be heard by the ordinary courts, the right to the appropriate judge is violated, as is, a fortiori, due process, which, in turn, is intimately linked to the right of access to justice.


Double jeopardy does not apply where a person is prosecuted by a court that has no jurisdiction, is not independent or impartial and fails to meet the requirements for competent jurisdiction.


Continued deprivation of the truth regarding the fate of a disappeared person constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against close next of kin.


The habeas corpus remedy constitutes one of the most indispensable judicial guarantees.




I. In the predawn hours of 18 July 1992, a professor and nine students were abducted by members of the Peruvian army from their university campus, and subsequently summarily executed or disappeared. Systematic and generalised practices of illegal and arbitrary detentions, torture, extra-legal executions and forced disappearances took place during the time of the facts. An investigation was undertaken in the common criminal court, but the Supreme Military Justice Tribunal soon took jurisdiction over the investigation and from 1994-2002, criminal courts were prevented from hearing the case and next of kin were prevented from taking part in the investigations. The petitions for habeas corpus filed by the next of kin were ineffective.


On 14 February 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter, "the Commission") filed an application against the State of Peru in which it asked the Court to decide whether the State is responsible for the violation of the rights to life (Article 4 ACHR), judicial personality (Article 3 ACHR), humane treatment (Article 5 ACHR), personal liberty (Article 7 ACHR), judicial guarantees (Article 8 ACHR) and judicial protection (Article 25 ACHR), in relation to the general obligation to respect and guarantee human rights established in Article 1.1 ACHR.


The State acknowledged its international responsibility for the violation of Articles 4, 5, 7, 8.1 and 25 ACHR, but did not make the same acknowledgement with respect to the victims' next of kin.


II. The Court recalled that in cases involving forced disappearances, the violation of the right to mental and moral integrity of the victims' next of kin is, precisely, a direct consequence of that event, which causes them suffering and is made worse by the continued refusal of State authorities to supply information on the victim's whereabouts or to conduct an effective investigation to elucidate facts. Consequently, the Court found that the State violated the right to humane treatment of the victim's next of kin. The Court did not find a violation of Article 3 ACHR. The Court also held that the State did not comply with its obligation to give domestic legal effect to the provisions of the American Convention, in violation of Article 2 ACHR, during the time when the amnesty laws were applied in the present case. The Court did not find a violation of Article 2 ACHR after said time, as the State has since adopted certain measures to eliminate the effect of the amnesty laws.


The Court ordered the State, inter alia, to pay compensation to the victims and their next of kin; adopt all measures necessary for the effective completion, within a reasonable time, of the investigations and judicial proceedings initiated before regular criminal courts, and to take all measures necessary to determine and, where appropriate, sanction those responsible for the facts denounced in this case; adopt all measures necessary to find the mortal remains of the deceased victims, and, if found, return them to their next of kin for a proper burial; incorporate the names of the victims in the national monument called "The Eye that Cries"; publish certain parts of the Judgment in an official gazette and in another newspaper; provide free health care to the victims' next of kin; and implement human rights education programs within the intelligence, military, and police forces.