I/A Court H.R., Case of the Miguel Castro Castro Prison v. Peru. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 25, 2006. Series C No. 160.

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

 

Headnotes:

 

States have the power and even the obligation to guarantee security and maintain public order, especially within prisons, using force if necessary. However, State policies and actions must conform to applicable human rights norms, limited and pursuant to the procedures that permit both the preservation of public security as well as the fundamental rights of human beings.

 

Compliance with the American Convention on Human Rights, not only presupposes that no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of their life, but also requires that the State adopt all appropriate measures to protect and preserve the right to life (Article 4), pursuant to the obligation to guarantee the full and free exercise of the rights and freedoms of all persons (Article 1). This positive obligation not only involves a State's legislative body, but the entire State institution, including police and armed forces.

 

The State is responsible for guaranteeing the right to humane treatment of any individual in its custody.

 

The State has the duty to provide detainees with adequate medical care and treatment whenever necessary.

 

Sexual violence consists of acts of a sexual nature committed against a person without their consent, which in addition to the physical invasion of the body, may also include acts that do not involve penetration or any physical contact whatsoever.

 

Female detainees submitted to prolonged periods of nudity and forced to use the bathroom under the watch of male State policemen, are victims of sexual violence in violation of their right to humane treatment. Moreover, the digital penetration of a female inmate's vagina during a so-called "inspection" by multiple guards is rape constituting torture.

 

A prolonged elapse of time without initiating evidentiary and serious, impartial and effective investigative actions regarding alleged violations of the right to life and humane treatment constitutes a violation of the right of access to justice of both the victims and their next of kin.

 

Summary:

 

I. From 6-9 May 1992, police and other State security forces executed "Operation Transfer 1" at Miguel Castro Castro Prison, to relocate inmates accused or convicted of terrorism and treason. The Operation involved explosives, indiscriminate shooting, and gases that caused asphyxia and contained chemicals which penetrated human tissue. Women were primarily targeted as the attack started in the only pavilion occupied by female inmates, including the pregnant and elderly. Over several days, captured inmates were beaten and denied food, water and medical attention. Their next of kin witnessed the attack from outside the prison walls and were forced to search in morgues for their relatives. Transferred and relocated inmates were forced to endure the following: overcrowded cells; precarious feeding conditions; lack of adequate medical attention; a severe regimen of solitary confinement; lack of attention to women's pre and post natal health needs; and collective punishments including falanga beatings and application of electrical shocks.

 

On 9 September 2004, 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), humane treatment (Article 5 ACHR), a fair trial (Article 8 ACHR), and judicial protection (Article 25 ACHR), enshrined in the American Convention, in relation to the general obligation to respect and guarantee human rights, established in Article 1.1 ACHR, to the detriment of the 41 deceased, 175 injured and 322 inmates and their next of kin during and in the aftermath of "Operation Transfer 1" at the Miguel Castro Castro Prison. The Commission also relied on relevant provisions of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish, and Eradicate Violence against Women. The State partially acknowledged its international responsibility for the events of 6-9 May 1992.

 

II. The Court admitted this partial acknowledgment of international responsibility and held that the State of Peru violated the right to life of the 41 deceased inmates; the right to humane treatment of the 41 deceased inmates identified and of the surviving inmates, as well as of their next of kin; and the right to a fair trial and judicial protection of the next of kin of the 41 deceased inmates identified, of the surviving inmates, and of the next of kin of the inmates.

 

The Court ordered the State, inter alia, to compensate the victims and their next of kin, including payment of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, investigation of the facts and identification, prosecution and punishment of those responsible, a public act of acknowledgment of responsibility in amends to the victims, medical and psychological assistance, and human rights education programs for State police on the international standards applicable to matters regarding treatment of inmates in situations regarding public order in penitentiary centres.