University of Minnesota

Bámaca Velásquez Case, Order of the Court of February 5, 1997, reprinted in 1997 Annual Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [99], OEA/Ser.L/V/III.39, doc. 5 (1998).





1. The application lodged by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Commission") on August 30, 1996, with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereinafter "the Court" or "the Inter-American Court") against the Government of Guatemala (hereinafter "the Government", "the State" or "Guatemala") in which the Commission asked the Court to rule on whether the Government had violated the following articles of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Convention" or "the American Convention"): 3 (Right to Juridical Personality), 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial), and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection), all of the above in conjunction with Article 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the Convention, as a result of the alleged disappearance, torture and execution of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez.  It also asked the Court to declare that Guatemala had violated the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.

2.             The facts of the petition 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.

3.             The brief containing the Government's preliminary objections of October 31, 1996, on the ground of alleged non-exhaustion of domestic remedies and the Commission's response of December 2, 1996.

4.             The brief presented by the Government on January 6, 1997, within the deadline for answering the application, in which it "acknowledges 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."  In addition to acknowledging its international responsibility in the instant case, it requested

2.             That, in 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.

5.             The brief presented to the Court by the Government on January 20, 1997 to "CLARIFY THE DOCUMENT IN RESPONSE 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."

6.             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 from the Honorable Court concerning the written and oral proceedings to take place before it in regard to the point in controversy concerning the direct responsibility of the State of Guatemala."  It also sought clarification as to whether the preliminary objection lodged by the Government had been withdrawn.


That the Court cannot, from its examination of Guatemala's briefs, conclude that the events indicated in the petition have been accepted and, therefore, the Case must continue to be heard.



in exercise of the powers conferred on it by Article 29 of its Rules of Procedure,


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

2. To continue with the processing of the Case.


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