University of Minnesota

Bámaca Velásquez Case, Order of the Court of April 16, 1997, reprinted in 1997 Annual Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [119], OEA/Ser.L/V/III.39, doc. 5 (1998).





1.             The application presented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Commission") on August 30, 1996, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereinafter "the Court" or "the Inter-American Court") against the State of Guatemala (hereinafter "the State" or "Guatemala"), based on the events summarized in paragraph II as follows:

1.             Efraín Bámaca-Velásquez, also known as "Commander Everardo", served as commander in the ranks of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (the "URNG"), the Guatemalan revolutionary movement.  Mr. Bámaca commanded the "Luis Ixmatá" front of the Revolutionary Organization of the People in Arms ("ORPA"), one of the four guerrilla groups that make up the URNG.

2.             Efraín Bámaca disappeared after a shoot-out between the army and the guerrillas near the Ixcucúa river on March 12, 1992, in the village of Montúfar, in the vicinity of Nuevo San Carlos, Retalhuleu, in the west of Guatemala.  The Commission avers that Guatemalan armed forces took Mr. Bámaca alive after the skirmish and held him secretly at a number of military units, where they tortured and eventually executed him.

3.             The Commission also maintains that this was followed by denial of justice and a cover-up.  The Government of Guatemala has failed to afford any judicial protection or reparation for the crimes committed against Mr. Bámaca or to conduct a proper investigation of his disappearance and death, and to punish the guilty parties.

2.             The brief containing preliminary objections submitted by the State on October 31, 1996, alleging non-exhaustion of domestic remedies and the answered to it, submitted by the Commission on December 2, 1996.

3.             The State's answer to the application, submitted on January 6, 1997, in which it "recognizes its international human rights responsibility in the instant case, given that so far the competent authorities have been unable to identify the person or persons criminally responsible for the illegal acts that are the subject of the application."  It also requested:

2.             That with regard to the events described in paragraph II of the application, note should be taken of the acknowledgment by the Government of Guatemala of its international human rights responsibility.

4.             The brief presented to the Court by the State on January 20, 1997, to clarify its answer to the application as follows:

the Government of Guatemala submitted an answer to the application... it being necessary to clarify it to the effect that paragraph No. 2 of the description of facts, conclusion No. 1, and petition No. 2 should be interpreted as a whole, so that the recognition of responsibility may be described as follows:  "The Government of the Republic of Guatemala accepts the events set out in paragraph II of the application in the case of Mr. Efraín Bámaca-Velásquez inasmuch as it has not been possible so far to identify the person or persons criminally responsible for the illegal acts perpetrated against Mr. Bámaca and thus throw light on his disappearance; reservation is made with regard to the Commission's claim in paragraph II, subparagraph 2, since the circumstances of Mr. Bámaca's disappearance have not been confirmed within the domestic process."

5.             The brief from the Commission presented on January 27, 1997, in which it pointed out that the State's acceptance of responsibility was partial, although it understood that "The Guatemalan State recognizes its responsibility for the events described concerning the denial of justice and covering-up, including the lack of judicial protection and reparation and the failure to investigate and punish the guilty parties."  Moreover, as regards the events set out in paragraph II, subparagraph 2, of the application, it indicated that it was awaiting information concerning the written and oral proceedings to take place before the Court in regard to the point in controversy.  It also sought clarification as to whether the preliminary objection lodged by the Government had been withdrawn.

6.             The letter from the President of the Court of January 28, 1997, in which he requested the State to submit at its earliest convenience its comments on the Commission's briefs and its request for "clarification as to whether the preliminary objection lodged has been withdrawn" and the letter of March 4, 1997 in which the Secretariat of the Court repeated that request.

7.             The Order of the Court of February 5, 1997, whereby it decided:

1.             To take note of the briefs of the  Government of the Republic of Guatemala of January 6 and 20, 1997.

2.             To continue with the processing of the Case.

8.             The Commission's brief of April 7, 1997, in which it stated that "it understands that, in relation to the procedural status of this case, the Court will rule on the preliminary objection lodged by the Government of Guatemala" and requested the Court to inform it "whether the proceeding [would] be different and whether a hearing will be convened to deal with the preliminary objection."

9.             The brief of April 16, 1997, from the State of Guatemala in which it indicated that it had recognized "its international responsibility, which implies that the preliminary objection lodged has been withdrawn."


That, the State having withdrawn the preliminary objection, the processing of the merits of the case may properly continue.



in exercise of the powers conferred on it by Articles 29 and 39 of its Rules of Procedure


1.             To deem the preliminary objection lodged by the State of Guatemala to have been withdrawn.

2.             To continue the processing of the merits of the case.

3.             To authorize the President of the Court to set a date for the public hearing on the merits of the case.

Done in Spanish and English, the Spanish text being authentic, in San Jose, Costa Rica, on this sixteenth day of April, 1997.



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