Prison Castro Castro v. Peru, Case 11.015, Report No. 43/01, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111 Doc. 20 rev. at 356 (2000).
HUGO JUÁREZ CRUZAT ET AL.
(MIGUEL CASTRO CASTRO PRISON)
March 5, 2001
1. On May 18, 1992,
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter the Inter-American
Commission, Commission or IACHR) received
a communication that Mrs. Sabina Astete lodged against the Republic of
Peru (hereinafter Peru, Peruvian State or State).
The communication alleges that on May 6, 1992, 500 Peruvian Army
troops descended upon Limas Miguel Castro Castro Prison
by air and overland. Targeting
cellblock 1A and armed with heavy artillery, their objective
was to transfer the prisoners to the Santa Mónica Prison.
But an attack on Miguel Castro Castro Prison ensued, leaving 34
inmates dead and another 18 wounded.
The communication alleges that by these actions, the Peruvian State
violated the rights to life, humane treatment, personal liberty, the principles
of freedom from ex post facto laws and of non-retroactivity, and the right to equal
protection before the law, recognized, respectively, in articles 4, 5,
7, 9 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter the
American Convention or Convention).
The State did not file an objection claiming failure to exhaust
the remedies under domestic law.
The Commission is therefore deciding to admit the case and proceed
with its analysis of the merits.
PROCESSING WITH THE COMMISSION
The Commission received Mrs. Astetes communication on May
18, 1992 and within days obtained information about the events from a
variety of sources, including communications sent by inmates. The Commission
opened the case on June 12, 1992, and forwarded the pertinent parts of
the petition to the Peruvian State, requesting that it supply pertinent
information within 90 days.
On August 18, 1992, the IACHR decided to grant precautionary measures
and requested the Government of Peru to send an official list of the persons
who either died or disappeared as of the time of the events at Miguel
Castro Castro prison, as well as information on the wounded and
where they were taken.
On September 11, 1992, the State sent detailed information on the
measures taken in connection with the Commissions request; it sent
additional information on October 26, 1992 and November 9, 1992.
On December 14, 1992, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
granted provisional measures in connection with the situation at the Peruvian
prisons, including the Castro Castro penal institution.
On March 22, 1999, Mrs. Astete requested that the Commission make
all information on this case available to attorneys Fiona McKay and Curtis
On April 4, 2000, Mrs. Astete informed the IACHR that Dr. Curtis
Doebbler was no longer representing her in the case.
On June 30, 2000, Mrs. Astete sent the IACHR a list of the alleged
victims of the May 1992 events at Castro Castro Prison
and informed it that the list might be incomplete because the Government
was refusing to supply any further information. Mrs. Astete sent additional
information on October 16, 2000 and on December 4, 2000 submitted her
observations on the new petition filed by Dr. Doebbler.
case 11.769-B with case 11.015
On June 5, 1997, the Commission received a petition filed by Dr.
Curtis Doebbler, representing Mrs. Mónica Feria-Tinta.
The petition alleged that she had been arrested, tortured and imprisoned
in the Castro Castro prison. It
also denounced the events that transpired at that prison in May 1992,
when Mrs. Feria-Tinta was an inmate there.
The case was opened on July 8, 1997, and the pertinent parts of
the petition were forwarded to the State, which was given 90 days in which
to submit information on the case.
The State has never responded to that request.
On November 20, 1997, Dr. Fiona McKay submitted to the Commission
a power of attorney wherein Mrs. Mónica Feria-Tinta names her as her representative
in the instant case.
On March 31, 2000, Mrs. Feria-Tinta informed the Commission that
she was revoking the power of attorney that she had given to Dr. Curtis
Doebbler. She also stated
that henceforth, her sole representative would be Dr. Fiona McKay.
On June 29, 2000, in accordance with Article 40(1) of its Regulations,
the Commission decided to divide case 11.769 into two new cases, identified
as case 11.769-A and case 11.769-B.
It also decided that thereafter, the petition that originated case
11.769, on the detention, trial and other allegations that directly and
personally concerned attorney Mónica Feria-Tinta, would be case 11.769-A.
The Commission also agreed that thereafter, the other allegations made
in the petition that led to case 11.769, i.e., those that concerned the
events that transpired at Castro-Castro prison in May 1992, would be addressed
in case 11.769-B.
At the same time, the Commission also decided to combine case 11.769-B
with case 11.015, and to continue to process both as case 11.015, pursuant
to Article 40(2) of the Commissions Regulations.
The parties were duly notified of the Commissions decision.
POSITION OF THE PARTIES
A. Position of the
petitioners (Sabina Astete and Mónica Feria-Tinta)
The petitioners allege that at 4:30 a.m. on May 6, 1992, some 500
Army troops stormed cellblock 1A of Miguel Castro Castro prison,
by air and overland, carrying heavy weaponry like rifles, anti-tank weapons,
grenades, dynamite and plastic explosives.
Their plan was to move prisoners to the Santa Mónica prison.
The petitioners contend that the operation amounted to an attack
upon the prisoners, carried out in the predawn hours with no prior warning.
Its opening move was demolition of the cellblock 1A.
The petitioners further allege that the attack on the prison went
on throughout May 7, 8 and 9, 1992.
They reported that because the prisoners had put up resistance
and had moved to cellblock 4B, the government ordered deployment
of 1000 troopsa combination of Army and special police units-to
launch a final assault on the cellblock.
The petitioners state that the government rejected the inmates
call for formation of a committee composed of representatives of the International
Red Cross and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to negotiate
a peaceful solution to the conflict. They point out that the prisoners
made every effort to resolve the situation differently and even went so
far as to sign a document with Attorney General Mirtha Campos, where the
main point was the Red Cross presence as a minimal requirement to
guarantee the lives of the prisoners at the time of surrender.
They added that in the end, the petitioners revolted when they
realized that the real objective of the Army and police troops was to
The petitioners state that the confrontation continued until May
9, 1992, when the Army troops began to selectively execute prisoners,
despite the fact that they had surrendered and were leaving the facility
to be transferred to another facility.
They add that at 1:00 p.m. on May 22, 1992, 500 Army troopers,
wearing hoods and heavily armed, again entered Castro Castro
prison to move 300 prisoners from one area known as no-mans
land to the demolished cellblock 1A.
During this maneuver, the troops mistreated and beat the prisoners,
exacerbating the condition of the wounded who were there.
The petitioners state that the prisoners were held incommunicado,
some without clothing or shoes.
There were few mattresses and blankets, little food and no proper
The petitioners point out that the operation that the Army and
government police forces conducted against the Castro Castro prison left
34 prisoners dead and 18 wounded.
They maintain that those immediately to blame for the events were
the Prison Warden, Colonel Cajahuanca, the Assistant Warden, Commander
Pinto, and Commander Guzmán. These
three had a plan to isolate and annihilate the inmates.
The petitioners allege that the treatment of inmates at Miguel
Castro Castro prison was inhumane, given the scarcity of food, the
lack of heating in the cells, the lack of medical care for sick prisoners,
the absolute ban on visitsboth by family members and prisoners
attorneys-, the harassment, abuse and brutality of the guards charged
with the custody of the prisoners and the safety of prisons.
They argue that the petition was submitted before the proceedings
in the domestic courts had closed because of the urgency of the situation
and to avoid further and possibly irreparable harm to the inmates at Miguel
Casto Castro prison.
B. The States
The State alleges that the decision to transfer inmates prosecuted
for terrorism from the Miguel Castro Castro facility to a similar facility
called Santa Mónica prison, was because of the need to gradually
reduce overcrowding and promiscuity between male and female inmates.
It adds that the operation was planned by the Peruvian National
Police, to transfer female inmates incarcerated at Miguel Castro
Castro prison to the Santa Monica womens prison,
and to house them in facilities especially equipped to handle them.
It points out that the representative from the Attorney Generals
Office, Mrs. Mirtha Campos Salas, and assistant government attorneys were
present at the Castro Castro prison from May 6 to May 11,
1992, as required under domestic law and at the request of the head of
Legal Support and the Peruvian National Police.
The State mentions that the intervention of the representative
of the Attorney Generals Office was in response to the pressing
need to monitor for and ensure respect for the law so as to defend the
legal system, protect the lives and physical safety of the male and female
inmates and, above all, to respect the human rights of those inmates.
The State disputes the petitioners version of the facts and
contends that the operation was conducted by National Police troops, since
the Army troops, numbering 100 men, were in charge of guarding the outside
perimeter of the prison and remained in waiting.
The State contends that the Army troops never directly intervened
in the incursion.
The State alleges that the operation was not planned as an assault
on the prison. Instead, before
police intervened, the government attorney in charge and national police
officials attempted to persuade and convince the inmates to make the move.
It goes on to state that whereas the male inmates who were members
of the Shining Path rejected these overtures, a number of
female inmates came out and were taken voluntarily and peaceably to the
Santa Monica prison, after being given a medical check-up.
The State alleges that in a document dated May 8, 1992, an appeal
was made to the rioting inmates to give up.
According to the State, the inmates initially agreed to be transferred
to other prisons. It alleges that the terms of the transfer were even
worked out, especially immediate treatment of the wounded.
It adds, however, that the rioting inmates did not honor the terms
of the agreement and refused to exit the cellblocks peacefully.
The State also refutes the petitioners allegation that it
refused the intervention of the International Red Cross requested by the
inmates. The State maintains
that the document shows that representatives of the International Red
Cross were present. It adds that at no time did the representatives of
the Attorney Generals Office obstruct or object to the presence
and intervention of the representatives of the International Red Cross
and that the inmates used that false argument to justify their failure
to honor the terms of the document in question.
The State contends that Army troops did not selectively and summarily
execute the prisoners as they were leaving the prison, since the Army
troops did not have a direct hand in the operation against cellblock 1A
or 4B; instead, they confined their activities to security
outside the prison.
The State argues that the events occurred because of a confrontation
initially instigated by the inmates, when they rioted and forcibly obstructed
the transfer of female inmates prosecuted for terrorism to the Santa Mónica
prison. It adds that in response to the surprise attack launched by
the rioting prisoners, who were armed with quesos rusos
[a package containing the contents of several dynamite charges, combined
with nails and pieces of metal used for shrapnel to inflict greater damage;
these contents are then wrapped in paper or plastic, and a fuse and detonator
attached], firearms, and muriatic acid, the police forces directly handling
the operation repelled the attack.
It points out that prior to the polices successful actions
to take back the cellblocks that the inmates had taken over, the latter
were urged to exit peacefully and to agree to the transfer.
However, the rioting inmates rejected the appeal and responded
by firing shots from inside cellblock 4B.
The police were forced to return fire, which is how some of the
As for the allegations concerning the transfer that occurred on
May 22, 1992, the State reiterates that the Peruvian Army did not directly
participate in the operation; that there was absolutely no contact between
the Army troops and the rioting inmates, and that the Armys role
was to serve as an escort for the operation.
Concerning the assertions of inhuman conditions in Peruvian prisons,
the State points out that Attorney General Mirtha Campos made surprise,
personal visits to the Santa Mónica, Yanamayo-Puno, San Sebastián and
Cristo Rey prisons to inspect the real situation of the inmates at those
The State attached information to the effect that following the
events at the Castro Castro prison, the attorneys and families
of the inmates prosecuted for terrorism and housed at that prison filed
a petition of habeas corpus
with a judge in Lima, against the prison warden and other officials.
The petition alleged, inter
alia, the abduction, incommunicado incarceration, and harm done to
the inmates by being denied sufficient food and medical care.
The judge ordered that a summary inquiry be conducted to investigate
the conduct of the State agents in the events to which the appeal referred.
Later, however, on July 21, 1992, the judge declared the petition
The IACHR will now deliver a preliminary decision concerning the
representation claimed by Dr. Curtis Doebbler and the new petition filed. It will then examine the requirements for the petitions
admissibility, as set forth in the American Convention.
Preliminary issue: The new petition filed by Dr. Curtis Doebbler
As stated previously, on March 22, 1999, the petitioner sent a
letter requesting that the Commission make all information concerning
the case available to attorneys Fiona McKay and Curtis Doebbler.
Later, on April 4, 2000, the petitioner sent the Commission an
affidavit stating that she had revoked Dr. Curtis Doebblers power
of attorney to serve as her legal representative in the case.
By a communication dated July 6, 2000, Dr. Doebbler filed a new
petition concerning the events that occurred at the Castro Castro prison,
May 6 through 10, 1992 attaching a list of 610 inmates killed, wounded
and those who had survived. Dr.
Doebbler also presented a power of attorney from Mrs. Nila Cipriana Pacheco
Neira, mother of victim Elvia Nila Zanabria, authorizing him to represent
her in her daughters case, who died at Castro Castro prison.
On January 26, 2001, Dr. Doebbler confirmed his interest in continuing
to represent other alleged victims in this matter and submitted powers
of attorney from Madelleine Valle
Rivera and Mercedes Rios Vera, two inmates who survived and who are named
in the petition filed by Dr. Doebbler on July 6, 2000.
The Commission has the obligation to order proceedings on contentious
cases and to ensure that they are treated seriously, that the various
stages of the proceedings are carried out, and that both parties produce
evidence. In that sense,
the IACHR enjoys broad authority to combine petitions that deal with the
same facts and to separate petitions to better safeguard the interests
involved (Article 40 of the Commissions Regulations).
The Commission therefore decides that the new petition filed by
Dr. Curtis Doebbler on July 6, 2000, and the powers of attorney and other
attachments presented in connection with that complaint, are to be separated
from case file 11.015. It
is instructing the Secretariat of the Commission to process the new petition
in accordance with the provisions of Article 30 and other relevant articles
of the Commissions Regulations.
When that initial processing is completed, the Commission will
make its decision on that petition.
Competence of the Commission ratione
materiae, ratione personae, ratione loci and
The petitioner in the instant case is authorized under Article
44 of the American Convention to file a petition with the IACHR.
The petition names individual persons as the alleged victims, whose
Convention-recognized rights Peru undertook to respect and ensure. The
Commission notes that Peru is a State party to the American Convention,
having ratified it on July 28, 1978.
The facts alleged occurred within Peruvian territory. Hence, the
Commission is competent, ratione
personae and ratione loci,
to examine the petition.
The Commission is also competent ratione
materiae inasmuch as the facts alleged in the petition could constitute
violations of rights protected by the American Convention.
The IACHR is competent ratione
temporis because the facts alleged occurred in May 1992, when the
obligation to respect and guarantee the rights recognized in the American
Convention was already binding upon the Peruvian State.
requirements of the petition
1. Exhaustion of
Under Article 46(1)(a) of the Convention, for the Commission to
be able to admit a petition, the remedies under domestic law must have
been pursued and exhausted in accordance with generally recognized principles
of international law.
The Commission observes that, according to the information available
in the case file, in the wake of events at the Castro Castro
prison, the attorneys and families of the inmates housed at that facility
for the crime of terrorism filed a petition of habeas
corpus with the Lima examining magistrate, against the prison warden
and other authorities because of the restrictions placed on visits by
the inmates attorneys and family members. The judge ordered a summary
inquiry to investigate the conduct of the State agents in the events that
are the subject of the petition.
However, on July 21, 1992, the judge declared the petition inadmissible.
The State, for its part, has not filed any objection asserting
the rule requiring exhaustion of local remedies. The Inter-American Court
has pointed out that the objection asserting the non-exhaustion
of domestic remedies, to be timely, must be made at an early stage of
the proceedings by the State entitled to make it, lest a waiver of the
requirement be presumed.
For these reasons, the Commission concludes that the requirement
concerning exhaustion of domestic remedies has been satisfied.
2. Deadline for
filing the petition
Article 46 of the Convention states that for the Commission to
admit a petition or communication presented in accordance with articles
44 or 45 of the Convention, it must be lodged within a period of
six months from the date on which the party alleging violation of his
rights was notified of the final judgment.
The Commission notes that the petition filed in case 11.015 was
lodged on an emergency basis, before the domestic remedies had been exhausted.
That, however, does not preclude its admissibility at the current
stage of the case, since the requirements for a petitions admissibility
must be examined, as a rule, as of the time the Commission rules on the
question of admissibility.
The Commission further observes that the State did not make any argument
regarding the six-month time period for filing petitions.
The requirement set forth in Article 46(1)(b) of the American Convention
is, therefore, met.
3. Duplication of
It is the Commissions understanding that the subject of the
petition is not pending in another international proceeding for settlement
and is not substantially the same as one previously studied by the Commission
or by another international organization. Therefore, and notwithstanding
paragraph 46 above, the requirements stipulated in articles 46(1)(c) and
47(d) are met.
of the facts
The Commission considers that the facts alleged, if proven, could
constitute violations of rights recognized in the American Convention
on Human Rights.
The Commission concludes, therefore, that under articles 46 and
47 of the American Convention, it is competent to take up this case.
For these reasons of fact and of law,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To admit the present case, which is a combination of case 11.015
and case 11.769-B and concerns alleged violations of articles 4, 5, 7,
9, 24 and 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
This shall not imply any prejudgment as to the merits of the case.
To notify the parties of this decision.
To proceed with the analysis of the merits of the case.
To publish this decision and include it in the IACHRs Annual
Report to the OAS General Assembly.
Given and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the city of Washington, D.C., on the fifth day of March of the year 2001. (Signed) Claudio Grossman, Chairman; Juan Méndez, First Vice Chairman; Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice Chair, and Commission members Hélio Bicudo, Robert K. Goldman, Julio Prado Vallejo and Peter Laurie.
The IACHR was asked to intervene as the events were
in progress, and even sent a special mission to Peru. See IACHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru,
1993, paragraphs 94 to 97.
By letter dated April 10, 2000,
Dr. Doebbler informed the Commission that he was still interested
in representing the alleged victims in the instant case.
On June 28, 2000, the Commission sent Dr. Doebbler a letter
informing him that it would have to defer to Mrs. Astetes wishes
in regard to Dr. Doebblers representation of her in the case,
and would therefore be terminating any representation he might have
had in the case.
On June 29, 2000, the Commission sent a letter to Dr. Curtis Doebbler
to the following effect: On
September 28, 1996, Mrs. Mónica Feria-Tinta gave you power
of attorney to represent her.
In that capacity, you filed a petition with the Commission
dated June 5, 1997. In
that petition, you stated that the petitioner in the case was Mrs.
Mónica Feria-Tinta and you signed the petition as her legal representative.
You further stated that you were acting as her representative by virtue
of that power of attorney. Although
in the original petition you stated that you were representing other
victims as well, the petitioner in this case is Mrs. Feria-Tinta,
and throughout the process you have repeatedly stated that you are
serving as her legal representative.
Given these facts and as required under Article 44 of the American
Convention on Human Rights, the Commission has, since the start of
the proceedings on this case, recognized Mrs.
Feria-Tinta as the petitioner, wherein the alleged victims are Mrs.
Feria-Tinta and the other persons named in the original petition.
For these reasons, given the situation, the Inter-American Commission
must defer to the petitioners wishes that the power of attorney
she gave you to represent her in the case in question be revoked and
your representation thereby terminated.
All this without prejudice to the other alleged victims
right to designate you as their representative vis-à-vis the Commission.
By a letter dated April 10, 2000,
Dr. Doebbler told the Commission that he was still interested in representing
the alleged victims in the case in question.
On June 28, 2000, the Commission sent Dr. Doebbler a letter
explaining to him that the original petition was presented by Mrs.
Astete in 1992 and that on March 22, 1999, she had authorized the
Commission to make all case-related information available to Dr. Doebbler.
However, there was no letter or statement from Mrs. Astete
on record wherein he is named as her representative in the case.
The Commission also informed Dr. Doebbler that with the situation
as it was, it was deferring to the petitioners wishes that any
power of attorney she may have given to Dr. Doebbler be revoked, and
was therefore terminating any such representation. All this notwithstanding
the right of other alleged victims to designate Dr. Doebbler as their
representative vis-à-vis the Commission.
Velásquez Rodríguez Case, Preliminary
Objections, Judgment of June 21, 1987, Series C, No. 1, par. 88; Fairén
Garbi and Solis Corrales case, Preliminary Objections, judgment
of June 26, 1987, Series C, No. 2, par. 87; Gangaram
Preliminary Objections, judgment of December 4, 1991, Series C, No.
12, par. 38; Loayza Tamayo Case,
Preliminary Objections, judgment of January 31, 1996, Series C, No.
25, par. 40.
IACHR, Report 52/00, Dismissed Congressional Employees, Cases 11.830
and 12.038, (Peru), par. 19.