I/A Court H.R., Case of Goiburú et al. v. Paraguay. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of September 22, 2006. Series C No. 153.

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/B2007-1-e.pdf

 

Headnotes:

 

The forced disappearance of persons is a crime against humanity and constitutes an illegal act that places the victim in a state of complete defencelessness, giving rise to multiple and continuing violations of several rights protected by the American Convention.

 

A state's international responsibility is increased when forced disappearances form part of a systematic pattern or practice applied or tolerated by the state, as well as by a state's failure to comply with the obligation to investigate such violations effectively.

 

The prohibition of the forced disappearance of persons and the corresponding obligation to investigate and punish those responsible has attained the status of a jus cogens norm of international law.

 

In cases of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and other grave human rights violations, the realisation of a prompt, serious, impartial and effective investigation, ex officio, is a fundamental element and a condition for the protection of certain rights that are affected or annulled by these situations, such as the right to personal liberty, humane treatment and life.

 

In cases involving the forced disappearance of persons, it can be understood that the violation of the right to mental and moral integrity of the victims' next of kin is a direct result of this phenomenon, which causes them severe anguish owing to the act itself, and which is increased, among other factors, by the constant refusal of State authorities to provide information on the whereabouts of the victim or to open an effective investigation to clarify what occurred.

 

In cases concerning violations to non-derogable provisions of international law, particularly the prohibition of torture and forced disappearance of persons, that take place within a context of systematic human rights violations, an obligation arises for the international community to ensure there is inter-State cooperation in relation to extradition requests, so as to eliminate impunity.

 

Summary:

 

I. On 8 June 2005 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter, the Commission) filed an application against the State of Paraguay regarding the alleged illegal and arbitrary detention, torture and forced disappearance of Agustín Goiburú Giménez, Carlos José Mancuello Bareiro and the brothers Rodolfo Feliciano and Benjamín de Jesús Ramírez Villalba, allegedly perpetrated by State agents as of 1974 and 1977, and also the partial impunity regarding these facts. Based on the above facts, the Commission requested the Court to decide whether Paraguay had incurred in the continuing violation of the rights embodied in Article 7 ACHR (Right to Personal Liberty), Article 5 ACHR (Right to Humane Treatment) and Article 4 ACHR (Right to Life), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, to the detriment of Agustín Goiburú Giménez, Carlos José Mancuello Bareiro, and the brothers Rodolfo and Benjamín Ramírez Villalba, the continuing violation of Article 5 ACHR (Right to Humane Treatment), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, to the detriment of the victims' next of kin, and the continuing violation of Article 8 ACHR (Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 25 ACHR (Judicial Protection), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, to the detriment of Agustín Goiburú Giménez, Carlos José Mancuello Bareiro and the brothers Rodolfo and Benjamín Ramírez Villalba, and their next of kin.

 

The forced disappearances of the victims had similar characteristics and occurred in the context of the systematic practice of arbitrary detention, torture, execution and disappearance perpetrated by the intelligence and security forces of the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, under "Operation Condor", the code name given to the "alliance of security forces and intelligence services" of the Southern Cone dictatorships.

 

The courts of justice usually refused to receive and process applications for habeas corpus in relation to measures decreed by the Executive Power under the state of siege.

 

The preparation and execution of the detention and subsequent torture and disappearance of the victims could not have been perpetrated without the superior orders of the chiefs of police and intelligence, and the Head of State, or without the collaboration, acquiescence and tolerance of members of the police forces, intelligence services and even diplomatic services of the States concerned.

 

II. In its judgment of 22 September 2006, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Paraguay had violated Article 4.1 ACHR (Right to Life), Articles 5.1 and 5.2 ACHR (Right to Humane Treatment) and Article 7 ACHR (Right to Personal Liberty), to the detriment of Agustín Goiburú Giménez, Carlos José Mancuello Bareiro, Rodolfo Ramírez Villalba and Benjamín Ramírez Villalba. In addition, the Court held that the State violated Article 5.1 ACHR (Right to Humane Treatment), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, to the detriment of the victims' next of kin. Finally, the Court held Paraguay responsible for the violation of Article 8.1 ACHR (Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 25 ACHR (Right to Judicial Protection), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, to the detriment of Agustín Goiburú Giménez, Carlos José Mancuello Bareiro, Rodolfo Ramírez Villalba, Benjamín Ramírez Villalba, and also of their next of kin.

 

Consequently, the Court ordered the State to, inter alia, investigate the facts that gave rise to the violations in the instant case, and identify, prosecute and punish those responsible, including the masterminds and the perpetrators; seek and find the mortal remains of the four victims and cover the expenses of their burial; organise a public act to acknowledge its responsibility for the forced disappearance of the four victims and make a public apology to their next of kin; publish the judgement in the official gazette and in another newspaper of widespread national circulation; provide, free of charge and through the national health services, physical and psychological treatment for the next of kin; erect a monument in memory of the disappeared victims; implement permanent programs of human rights training for the Paraguayan police forces; and adapt the definition of the offences of "forced disappearance" and torture contained in the Criminal Code to the applicable provisions of international human rights law.

 

Supplementary information:

 

Judges García Ramírez and Cançado Trindade wrote separate opinions.