I/A Court H.R., Case of Bueno Alves v. Argentina. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of May 11, 2007. Series C No. 164.

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/B2008-1-e.pdf

 

Headnotes:

 

International Human Rights Law strictly prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. Said prohibition remains valid even under the most difficult circumstances, such as war, the fight against terrorism and other public emergencies or catastrophes.

 

States are bound to take effective measures to prevent and punish torture within their jurisdiction and prevent and punish other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

 

In cases of serious breaches to fundamental rights the imperious need to avoid the repetition of said facts depends on avoiding their impunity and satisfying the right of both victims and society as a whole to have access to the knowledge of the truth of what happened. The obligation to investigate constitutes a means to guarantee said rights, and failure to comply with it brings about the State's international responsibility.

 

The elements obetorture are considered to be following:

 

a. an intentional act;

b. which causes severe physical or mental suffering; and

c. is committed with a given purpose or aim.

 

Summary:

 

I. Early in 1988 Mr. Bueno-Alves, a Uruguayan national residing in Argentina engaged in a real estate sales transaction with Norma Lage, which at the end was not carried out. Both parties alleged fraud in relation to the frustrated transaction and on 20 March 1988 agreed that it be cancelled. On 5 April 1988, at a meeting held for that purpose, Mr. Bueno-Alves and his attorney were detained and the offices of the latter were searched by officials of the Fraud and Embezzlement Division of the Argentine Federal Police, under order of the court in charge of criminal proceedings. While he was arrested and kept under police custody, Mr. Bueno-Alves was subjected to torture consisting of being beaten on the ears and the stomach, insulted because of his nationality, and deprived of his medication for an ulcer. As a consequence, Mr. Bueno-Alves suffered a hearing impairment of his right ear and the loss of his balancing capability.

 

On 31 March 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Commission") submitted an application to the Court against the Republic of Argentina to determine if the State was responsible for the violation of the rights recognized in Article 5 ACHR (Right to Humane Treatment), Article 8 ACHR (Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 25 ACHR (Right to Judicial Protection), in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights), to the detriment of Mr. Bueno-Alves. The Commission requested the Court that the State be required to take certain measures of reparation.

 

On 20 July 2006, the alleged victim's representative requested the Court to declare that, in addition to the violations alleged by the Commission, the State was internationally responsible for the violation of the rights recognized in Article 7 ACHR (Right to Personal Liberty), Article 11 ACHR (Right to Privacy) and Article 24 ACHR (Right to Equal Protection) and Articles I, V, VI, XVII, XVIII, XXV, XXVI and XXVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

 

On 26 September 2006, the State filed a brief, whereby it reiterated its acceptance of the Commission's conclusions and its legal consequences. The State, however, contested the arguments of the additional arguments submitted by the victim's representative.

 

II. The Court proceeded to consider the representative's allegations. On an assessment of the facts, the Court considered that the petitioner was arrested due to causes and in conditions established by the laws of Argentina and therefore the arrest itself did not constitute an Article 7 ACHR violation of the petitioner's right to personal liberty.

 

Pertaining to the State's alleged indifference and lack of interest regarding the honour, dignity, and life of the victim and his next of kin, the Court considered that a legal process does not constitute, in itself, an illegal violation of the honour and dignity of a person. The process is intended to solve a controversy, even though this may indirectly bring about nuisance for those who are subject to trial. Thus, the Court considered that in the instant case the violation of Article 11 ACHR had not been proven. Further, the Court found no evidence that Mr. Bueno-Alves was subjected to alleged insults or discriminatory treatment in violation of Article 24 ACHR.

 

The Court defined the elements that constitute the crime of torture and subsequently held, in view of the acknowledgment made by the State, that Mr. Bueno-Alves was in fact tortured, which constitutes a violation of the right recognised in Articles 5.1 and 5.2 ACHR, in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR. The Court also held that a nine year delay in the domestic court proceedings constituted a violation of Mr. Bueno-Alves' due process right to be heard within a reasonable time, as established under Article 8.1 ACHR and further declared that the State violated Mr. Bueno-Alves' right to judicial protection under Article 25.1 ACHR.

 

Consequently, the State was ordered to pay Mr. Bueno-Alves for non-pecuniary damages as well as for his subsequent work disability, lost future earnings and medical, pharmaceutical, treatment and rehabilitation expenses. Additionally, the State was order to conduct the necessary investigations so that those responsible for the acts denounced in the instant case be identified and punished as provided by law.