Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodd v. Mexico, Case 12.228, Report No. 81/01, OEA/Ser./L/V/II.114 Doc. 5 rev. at 222 (2001).
ALFONSO MARTÍN DEL CAMPO DODD
October 10, 2001
On July 13, 1998, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter
the Inter-American Commission or the IACHR) received
a complaint submitted by Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodd alleging that the
United Mexican States (the State)
had incurred in international responsibility through his illegal arrest
and torture and his subsequent conviction to serve a 50-year prison term
handed down at a trial at which the rules of due process were not respected,
including the use of a confession obtained by means of torture. In a subsequent
communication, the following bodies registered themselves as petitioners:
Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), the Center for
Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and the Lawyers Committee for
Human Rights (LCHR).
The petitioners allege that the
incidents reported in the complaint constitute a violation of several provisions
of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter the American
Convention): right to humane treatment (Article 5), to personal liberty
(Article 7), to a fair trial (Article 8), and to judicial protection (Article
25). They also claim that all the admissibility requirements set forth in
the American Convention have been met. The Mexican State maintains that
no violations of the American Convention are involved, since Mr. Martín
del Campo had access to several courts of law and proceedings wherein due
process was respected and torture was not proven, and because his conviction
stands as res judicata and as
such cannot be reviewed by the IACHR. The State therefore asks the Inter-American
Commission to declare this petition inadmissible.
Without prejudging the merits of this case, in this report the IACHR
concludes that the petition is admissible in that it meets the requirements
set by Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention. The Inter-American
Commission has therefore decided to notify the parties of that decision
and to continue analyzing the merits of the complaint with respect to the
alleged violations of Articles 5, 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention.
PROCESSING BY THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
Mr. Martín del Campo submitted additional documentation in a communication
on July 17, 1998; the Inter-American Commission replied on August 10, 1998,
asking him for additional information regarding the admissibility requirements
contained in Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention. The petitioners
submission of October 27, 1999 was transmitted to the Mexican State on November
4, 1999, as No. 12.228. The State submitted its comments on February 2,
2000, which were forwarded to the petitioners on February 17. The petitioners
sent comments and additional information on April 13, 2000, March 22, 2001,
and May 31, 2001. The States corresponding additional observations
were presented on July 21, 2000, April 21, 2001, and July 9, 2001. On October
1, 2001, the petitioners presented a submission in which they reported that
a final ruling had been handed down in the amparo
relief proceedings in Mexico. The Inter-American Commission held a hearing
on this case, attended by both parties, on October 11, 2000, during its
108th regular session. Both sides requested extensions, which were granted
by the Inter-American Commission.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES REGARDING ADMISSIBILITY
According to the petitioners, on May 29, 1992, Mr. Alfonso Martín
del Campo Dodd was asleep at his home (which he shared with his sister Patricia
Martín del Campo Dodd, his brother-in-law Ricardo Zamudio Aldaba, and their
three daughters) in Mexico City when, at around midnight, he heard panicked
screams from his sister. While he was on his way to see what was happening,
two unknown individuals, with stockings over their heads, struck him several
times in an attempt to leave him unconscious. They then told him to get
dressed, placed him in the trunk of one of the cars parked at the house,
and drove for 25 minutes before stopping the car. Mr. Martín del Campo claims
that he managed to open the trunk, after which he went off in search of
help; he finally reached a Federal Highway Police station on the Cuernavaca
According to the complaint, one of the police officers accompanied
Mr. Martín del Campo back to the vehicle. There they found a glove and a
knife, which the victim recognized as the one that his unknown assailants
had used to threaten him. He was then taken back home by another officer.
Upon arriving he saw an ambulance parked in front of the house and was told
that his sister and brother-in-law had been murdered. Mr. Martín del Campo
was then taken to the Benito Juárez precinct complex where, the petitioners
claim, he was tortured by officers of the judicial police:
They placed a plastic bag over his entire head; they then squeezed the bag so he would not get enough air, while the judicial police officers wrote up their version of events. He was subjected to coercion from between 10 and 12 officers; he also received severe blows, administered with wet cloths, to his stomach and to his head. He also received open-handed slaps on to his face and was kicked in the testicles; the police officers took turns to hit him, and they forced him to sign and place his thumbprint on an incriminating statement. In the statement that he gave under coercion, Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodd admitted having killed both his sister and his brother-in-law, and he also stated that he tried to fake a kidnapping to conceal his guilt.
Mr. Martín del Campo was tried and sentenced to a 50-year prison
term for killing both his sister and his brother-in-law. The petitioners
claim that the trial openly violated due process, essentially because the
sole evidence upon which his conviction was based was the statement he was
coerced into giving under torture and because he did not receive assistance
from an attorney or other person of his confidence. The internal investigation
conducted by the Office of the Attorney General for Justice of the Federal
District (PGJDF), launched at the request of Mr. Martín del Campos
family, determined in October 1994 that Police Officer Sotero Galván Gutiérrez
had incurred in administrative responsibility for the following:
Having arbitrarily detained him and having beaten him, thus failing to safeguard the legality and honesty he is required to observe; carrying out actions that constituted an abuse of his position or the undue exercise thereof, for failing to comport himself correctly in his job, for having violated other legal provisions related to public service, including the Operations Manual of the Judicial Police; because he failed to respect the principles of legality and constitutionality with respect to the complainant; because he did not refrain from the use of force and did not safeguard the basic rights [of Mr. Martín del Campo].
The petitioners report that the alleged victims defense counsel
pursued numerous remedies provided by domestic law: criminal action for
torture on May 11, 1995; proceedings 57/92 before Criminal Court 55, against
Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodd; appeal filed with the Eighth Chamber of the
Superior Court of Justice of the Federal District; amparo
relief proceedings before the Eighth Chamber of the Federal Districts
Fourth Collegiate Criminal Court; and, finally, a recognition of innocence
remedy, which was declared inadmissible by the Superior Court of Justice
of the Federal District on April 6, 1999. They also pursued nonlegal remedies:
namely, they lodged complaints with the PGJDFs Internal Controller,
with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), and with the Human Rights
Commission of the Federal District (CDHDF). The petitioners believe that
the evidence submitted to all these instances was sufficiently conclusive
to resolve Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodds situation; however, none
of these proceedings succeeded in remedying the injustice set forth in the
complaint. Consequently, they maintain that the admissibility requirements
contained in Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention have been met.
In its first reply regarding this petition, the State provided a
summary of the criminal proceedings brought against Mr. Martín del Campo,
in which it claims that the alleged victims defense had the
right to exhaust all the probatory means necessary to refute his assumed
involvement. The summary also says that the judge weighed up
the elements made available to him and on the basis of applicable law...
judged the accused guilty and imposed a sentence of fifty years in prison.
The State referred to the appeal, which upheld the original sentence, and
to the amparo relief sought by
Mr. Martín del Campos defense, which was dismissed because no
guarantees had been violated. The Mexican State also referred to the
recognition of innocence remedy that was declared inadmissible on April
29, 1999, and to the complaints lodged with the CNDH and the CDHDF; it also
mentioned the documents and the procedures followed, which led it to conclude
that there is no forensic evidence that Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodd
was subjected to acts of torture by public employees.
The position of the Mexican State, contained in its reply to the
Inter-American Commission, is that as far as the judicial authorities
are concerned, this matter is res judicata and that both the CNDH and the CDHDF investigated
the case and concluded that there was no evidence to indicate a
possible violation of Mr. Martín del Campos human rights
(emphasis per original). The Mexican State asked the Inter-American Commission
to declare this petition inadmissible on the grounds that it did not describe
possible violations of the American Convention. This position was repeated
in its submission of July 21, 2000, in which the State said that the
IACHR must not act as a fourth instance over and above countries jurisdictional
mechanisms (emphasis per original) and that the substance of the
complaint lodged with the Inter-American Commission was now res
judicata in accordance with Article 23 of the Mexican Constitution,
which stipulates that no criminal trial shall have more than three
However, in its communication with the Inter-American Commission
dated April 21, 2001, the State said that there were still remedies provided
by domestic jurisdiction that had not been exhausted. This position was
repeated in its next submission, dated July 9, 2001.
A. Competence of the Commission Ratione
Personae, Ratione Materiae, Ratione Temporis, and Ratione
The petitioners are entitled, under Article 44 of the American Convention,
to lodge complaints with the IACHR. As the alleged victims, the petition
names individual persons with respect to whom Mexico had assumed the commitment
of respecting and ensuring the rights enshrined in the American Convention.
With respect to the State, the Commission notes that Mexico has been a party
to the American Convention since March 24, 1981, when it deposited the corresponding
instrument of ratification. The Commission therefore has competence ratione
personae to examine the complaint.
The Commission has competence ratione
loci to deal with the petition since it alleges violations of rights
protected by the American Convention occurring within the territory of a
state party thereto. The IACHR also has competence ratione
temporis since the obligation of respecting and ensuring the rights
protected by the American Convention was already in force for the State
on the date on which the incidents described in the petition allegedly occurred.
Finally, the Commission has competence ratione
materiae since the complaint describes violations of human rights protected
by the American Convention.
B. Other Requirements for Admissibility
a. Exhaustion of
The case at hand involves a dispute regarding whether or not the
domestic remedies provided in Mexico were exhausted or not; the Inter-American
Commission must therefore adopt a decision in that regard.
On the first available occasion in these proceedingsthat is,
in its reply of February 2, 2000, to the Commissions transmission
of the petitionthe State made no reference to domestic remedies still
pending in Mexico. Its second opportunity was in its note of July 21, 2000,
replying to the petitioners comments; again, on this second occasion,
the State failed to invoke the exception set forth in Article 46(1)(a) of
the American Convention. On July 21, 2001, in its third communication with
the IACHR, the State said that as a result of the hearing before the
Honorable Commission on October 11, 2000, it was made evident that there
were remedies provided by domestic law that had not been exhausted in this
The State thus claims that domestic remedies have at all times been
available to the petitioners. It maintains that the domestic remedies applicable
to the torture allegations reported to the IACHR were not exhausted, in
that Mr. Martín del Campo Dodds defense counsel did not lodge an amparo
suit, which would have been an ideal and effective remedy for questioning
the Public Prosecution Services decision to refrain from pursuing
criminal action in connection with those claims. It also maintains that
a decision is still pending in the review remedy lodged against the amparo suit filed to revoke the dismissal of recognition of innocence.
The Mexican State reserves the right to offer additional considerations
on the admissibility and merits of the petition once a final ruling has
been given in the aforesaid amparo
The petitioners claim that Mexican domestic jurisdiction was exhausted
with the decision handed down on April 29, 1999, by the Superior Court of
Justice of the Federal District, dismissing the recognition of innocence
of Alfonso Martín del Campo Dodd. As regards the dismissed amparo
suit and the appeal filed against that decision, the petitioners have consistently
maintained that they continued to take juridical actions, in the understanding
that, in accordance with the applicable jurisprudence of the inter-American
system, those actions were not remedies that had to be exhausted. In their
submission of October 1, 2001, the petitioners informed the IACHR that the
Fourth Collegiate Criminal Court of the First Circuit did, on September
3, 2001, hand down a ruling dismissing the amparo
suit filed by Mr. Martín del Campos representatives.
The Inter-American Commission notes that the Mexican State did not
invoke the failure to exhaust domestic remedies in the earliest stages of
proceedings. On the contrary: it only did so in its third communication
with the IACHR, after a hearing had been held and more than one year after
its first submission in connection with this matter.
The Inter-American Court has on repeated occasions ruled that objections
alleging a failure to exhaust domestic remedies, in order to be considered
timely, must be raised in the early stages of proceedings; otherwise, the
State is assumed to have tacitly waived that right.
The Inter-American Commission therefore holds that in this case, the Mexican
State waived its right to argue that domestic remedies had not been exhausted,
in that it failed to do so within the established legal deadlines and, in
addition, failed to do so at the first available opportunity in the proceedingsthat
is, in its reply to the petition with which the proceedings began.
Timeliness of the Petition
In the instant case, the IACHR has established that the Mexican State
tacitly waived its right to argue that domestic remedies were not exhausted,
and so the requirement contained in Article 46(1)(b) of the American Convention
does not apply. However, the Conventions requirement that domestic
remedies be exhausted is independent of the requirement that the petition
be lodged within six months following the judgment exhausting domestic jurisdiction.
The Inter-American Commission must therefore decide whether this petition
was submitted within a reasonable delay. The IACHR thus notes that Mr. Martín
del Campo Dodds original communication was received on July 13, 1998,
prior to the filing of the recognition of innocence remedy. In light of
the particular circumstances of this petition, the IACHR holds that it was
submitted within a reasonable period of time.
Duplication of Proceedings and Res
The petition documents contain no information to indicate that this
matter is pending in any other international settlement proceeding or has
been previously examined by the Inter-American Commission. The IACHR therefore
concludes that the exceptions provided for in Article 46(1)(d) and Article
47(d) of the American Convention are not applicable.
Characterization of the Alleged Facts
The IACHR believes that the alleged incidents, if proven true, would
tend to characterize violations of the rights enshrined in Articles 5, 7,
8, and 25 of the American Convention.
The Inter-American Commission concludes that it is competent to examine
the substance of this case and that the petition is admissible under Articles
46 and 47 of the American Convention. Based on the foregoing considerations
of fact and law, and without prejudging the substance of the case,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
To declare this case admissible as regards the alleged violations
of the rights contained in Articles 5, 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention.
To give notice of this decision to the parties.
To continue with its analysis of the merits of the complaint.
To publish this decision and to include it in its Annual Report to
the General Assembly of the OAS.
and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, in the city of Washington, D.C., on the tenth day of October, 2001.
(Signed): Claudio Grossman, President; Juan E. Méndez, First Vice-President;
Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice-President; Commissioners Robert K. Goldman,
Peter Laurie, Julio Prado Vallejo, and Hélio Bicudo.
The petitioners filed for extensions on March 16, August 25, November
10, and December 22, 2000, and then again on February 16, 2001. The
State filed for extensions on May 6, 2000, and March 22, 2001.
Petitioners submission, October 27, 1999, pp. 3-4.
Decision of the Internal Controller of the PGJDF of October 14, 1994,
PGJDF File QC/011/FEB-94, quoted in the petitioners submission
of October 27, 1999, paragraph 9, p. 4.
Submission from the Mexican State, February 2, 2000, p. 4.
States submission, April 21, 2001, p. 1.
The petitioners state that the ruling of September 3, 2001, concludes
all the domestic instances for reviewing the case. They add:
the State maintained that there were still domestic remedies to be exhausteda
claim that was not accepted by the petitionersthe Collegiate Courts
judgment upholding the dismissal of the amparo
suit must force the Commission to conclude that all domestic remedies
were exhausted and, consequently, to proceed with the corresponding
report on admissibility.
should be noted that although the amparo
suit and the corresponding appeal were filed, none of the courts embarked
on an analysis of the merits of the case because of the inadmissibility
of the innocence remedy; this serves to underscore the ineffectiveness
of the remedies provided by domestic law.
Petitioners submission, October 1, 2001, p. 1.
For example, see: Inter-Am.Ct.H.R., Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community
Case, Nicaragua, Judgment on the Preliminary Objections, February 1,
2000, paragraph 53. In that same judgment, the Inter-American Court
ruled that in order to validly oppose the admissibility of the
the State should have expressly and in
a timely manner invoked the rule that domestic remedies should be
exhausted (emphasis per original); ibid.,