University of Minnesota



CDH-CP-03/02 ENGLISH

PRESS RELEASE(*)


 

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its LIV Regular Period of Session at its seat in San José, Costa Rica, from February 18 to March 1, 2002.  During this Session, the following public hearing took place at the seat of the Court:

 

1.             Hilaire, Constantine and Benjamin et al. Case.  Merits Phase.  On February 20 and 21, 2002, the Court held a public hearing, and received statements from the expert witnesses proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the final arguments of the Commission, and of the representatives of the alleged victims, on the merits and eventual reparations in the case[1].

 

This case is a result of the joinder of three different cases.  The joinder of the cases and the proceedings was ordered by the Inter-American Court in accordance with Article 28 of its Rules of Procedure, on November 30, 2001.  In said Order the Court considered, among other reasons, that the procedural parties in the cases Hilaire, Constantine et al. and Benjamin et al. and others are the same, namely the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State of Trinidad and Tobago.  Likewise, the Court considered that the subject-matter is essentially the same in the three cases, in the sense that all of them concern the judicial guarantees of the due process in cases of sentencing to “mandatory death penalty” to all individuals found guilty of the crime of murder in Trinidad and Tobago, being the sole differences the particular circumstances of each case.  Finally, the Articles of the American Convention on Human Rights that were allegedly violated are fundamentally the same. 

 

 

The application in the Hilaire Case was filed by the Inter-American Commission on May 25, 1999, and it alleges that the State of Trinidad and Tobago (hereinafter “the State” or ”Trinidad and Tobago”) is responsible for the breach of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Convention” or ”the American Convention”) for the arrest, detention, trial, conviction, and sentencing of Haniff Hilaire (hereinafter “Mr. Hilaire”) to a “mandatory death penalty” and, therefore, violating the rights protected by Articles: 4(1), to not be arbitrarily deprived of his life; 5(1) to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected; 5(2), to not be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or unusual punishment or treatment; 5(6), which establishes that reform and social re-adaptation are an essential objective of punishment involving deprivation of liberty; 7(5), for detaining Mr. Hilaire for 4 years and 3 months as a defendant awaiting trial, in violation of his right to be tried within a reasonable time or to be released, and 25, because domestic legislation does not provide the right to be tried within a reasonable time or be released, in violation of his right to judicial protection, all these in relation to Article 1(1) of the Convention.  The Commission also argues that the State is responsible for the violation of Article 2 which sets forth the obligation of the State to adopt legislative and other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights and freedoms protected by the Convention.

 

The application in the Constantine et al. case was filed by the Inter-American Commission on February 22, 2000, and it alleges that Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for violating the Convention as a result of the arrest, detention, trial, conviction, and sentencing to a mandatory death penalty of George Constantine, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Clarence Charles, Steve Mungroo, Anthony García, Mervyn Edmund, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Natasha de León, Wenceslaus James, Keiron Thomas, Denny Baptiste, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Vijay Mungroo, Philip Chotalal and Narresh Boodram, and Joey Ramiah, “pursuant to a law which makes the death sentence mandatory for all persons declared guilty of murder” and therefore of violating Articles 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to Fair Trial), and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention, in relation to Articles 1 (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) of that same Convention. 

 

The application in the Benjamin et al. Case was lodged by the Inter-American Commission on October 5, 2000, and it pertains to the arrest, detention, trial, conviction, and sentencing to a mandatory death penalty of Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Francis Mansingh, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, and Mervyn Parris, “pursuant to a law which makes the death sentence mandatory for all persons convicted of murder” in Trinidad and Tobago.  In its application, the Commission argues that Trinidad and Tobago violated, to the detriment of the alleged victims, the rights protected by the American Convention, specifically the provisions of Articles 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to Fair Trial), and 25 (Judicial Protection), in connection with Articles 1 (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) of this same Convention.

 

The Court also heard, among others, the following matters:

 

 

2.             Bámaca Velásquez Case: the facts of this case refer to the detention and forced disappearance of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez by agents of the State of Guatemala since March 12, 1992 when he was a Commander of the Gutatemalan National Revolutionary Unit.  During his detention, he was subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.  Likewise, the case deals with the denial of justice and the duty to investigate the facts and punish those responsible for them.  On November 25, 2000 the Court rendered its Judgment on the merits and decided that Guatemala violated Articles 1(1), 4, 5(1), 5(2), 7, 8 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and failed to comply with its obligation to prevent and punish torture in the terms of Articles 1, 2 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.

 

Reparations Phase. During this Session, the Court deliberated, and on February 22, 2002, rendered Judgment on reparations in this case.  In this Judgment, the Court decided:

 

unanimously,

 

1.             That the State shall locate the mortal remains of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, exhume them in the presence of his widow and relatives, and return the latter to them, in accordance with paragraphs 81, 82 and 96 of the […] Judgment.

 

2.             That the State shall investigate the facts that caused the violations of the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, identify and punish those responsible, and also to publicly disseminate the results of such investigation, in accordance with paragraphs 73 to 78 and 87 of the […] Judgment.

 

3.             That the State shall publish once in the Official Gazette (“Diario Oficial”) and in another newspaper of nation-wide circulation, the chapter referring to proven facts and the operative paragraphs of the Judgment on the merits adopted on November 25, 2000, and perform a public act of recognition of responsibility concerning the facts of this case and of redress to the victims.

 

4.             That the State shall adopt such legislative or other provisions as may be necessary to adjust the Guatemalan legal system to the international norms on human rights and humanitarian law, and to give effect to those norms in the domestic level, in accordance with Article 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

 

5.             That the State shall pay, as non-pecuniary damages:

 

a)             the amount of US$100.000,00 (one hundred thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, to be distributed in equal shares among José León Bámaca Hernández, Egidia Gebia Bámaca Velásquez, Josefina Bámaca Velásquez and Jennifer Harbury, in their capacity as heirs of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, in accordance with paragraphs 62, 66, 67 and 53 of the [] Judgment.

 

b)            to Jennifer Harbury, the amount of US$80.000,00 (eighty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, in accordance with paragraphs 65 (a) and 66 of the […] Judgment.

 

c)             to José León Bámaca Hernández, the amount of US$25.000,00 (twenty-five thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, in accordance with paragraphs 65 (b) and 66 of the […] Judgment.

 

d)            to Egidia Gebia Bámaca Velásquez, the amount of US$20.000,00 (twenty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, in accordance with paragraphs 65 (b) and 66 of the […] Judgment.

 

e)             to Josefina Bámaca Velásquez, the amount of US$20.000,00 (twenty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, in accordance with paragraphs 65 (b) and 66 of the […] Judgment.

 

f)             to Alberta Velásquez, the amount of US$5.000,00 (five thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, in accordance with paragraphs 65(c) and 66 of the […] Judgment.

 

 

6.             That the State shall pay, as pecuniary damages:

 

a)             the amount of US$100.000,00 (one hundred thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, to be distributed in equal shares among José León Bámaca Hernández, Egidia Gebia Bámaca Velásquez, Josefina Bámaca Velásquez and Jennifer Harbury, in their capacity as heirs of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, in accordance with paragraphs 51, 53 and 55 of the [] Judgment.

 

b)            to Jennifer Harbury, the amount of US$125.000,00 (one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, for the lost of earnings during the period between March 12, 1992 and January, 1997, the expenses occasioned by the damages in her health caused by the facts of this case and the expenditures incurred to try de determine the whereabouts of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, in accordance with paragraphs 54 and 55 of the […] Judgment.

 

7.             That the State shall pay, as costs and expenses, the amount of US$23.000,00 (twenty-tree thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Guatemalan national currency, to the family and representatives of the victims, in accordance with paragraph 91 of the […] Judgment.

 

8.             That the State shall comply with the reparatory measures ordered by the […] Judgment within six months of being notified of the same.

 

9.             That the payments ordered by the […] Judgment will be exempt from any existing or future tax or duty. 

 

10.           That the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will oversee compliance with this Judgment and that this case will be concluded once the State has fully carried out the provisions set forth in this Judgment.

 

Judges Cançado Trindade and García Ramírez advised the Court of their Concurring Opinions, which are attached to [the] Judgment.

 

 

3.             Trujillo Oroza Case: the facts of this case refer to the illegal detention of the university student José Carlos Trujillo Oroza by agents of the State of Bolivia on December 23, 1971, his forced disappearance since February 2, 1972, and the tortures he was subjected to during his detention.  Likewise, the case deals with the denial of justice and the duty to investigate the facts and punish those responsible for them.  In the Judgment of the merits, rendered on January 26, 2000, the Court decided, in accordance with the terms of the State’s acknowledgment of responsibility, that it violated the Articles 1(1), 3, 4, 5(1), 5(2), 7, 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

 

Reparations Phase. During this Session, the Court deliberated, and on February 27, 2002, rendered Judgment on reparations in this case.  In this Judgment, the Court decided:

 

unanimously,

 

1.             That the State shall take all necessary steps to locate the victim’s mortal remains and return them to his family, so that they may be able to provide him with an appropriate burial, in accordance with paragraphs 115 and 117 of the […] Judgment.

 

2.             That the State shall incorporate the crime of forced disappearance into its national law, in accordance with paragraph 98 of the […] Judgment.

 

3.             That the State shall investigate, identify and punish those responsible for the wrongful acts which are the subject matter of this case, in accordance with paragraphs 109, 110 and 111 of the […] Judgment.

 

4.             That the State must publish the judgment on the merits adopted on January 26, 2000 in its Official Gazette (“Diario Oficial”).

 

5.             That the State shall adopt, in accordance with article 2 of the Convention, such measures of protection of human rights as will ensure the free and full exercise of the rights to life, personal liberty and security and protection as well as judicial guarantees, in order to avoid any future occurrence of wrongful acts such as those in the present case, in accordance with paragraphs 120 and 121 of the […] Judgment. 

 

6.             That the State shall assign the name of José Carlos Trujillo Oroza to an educational center in the city of Santa Cruz, in accordance with paragraph 122 of the […] Judgment.

 

7.             That the State must pay, as non-pecuniary damages:

 

a)             the amount of US$ 100.000,00 (one hundred thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, in her capacity  as heir of José Carlos Trujillo Oroza, in accordance with paragraphs 87 and 89 of the […] Judgment;

 

b)            the amount of US$ 80.000,00 (eighty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, in accordance with paragraphs 88.a), b) and c) and 89 of the […] Judgment;

 

c)             the amount of US$ 25.000,00 (twenty-five thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to be distributed in equal shares between Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, Pablo Erick Solón Romero Oroza and Walter Solón Romero Oroza, to be delivered to them in their capacity as heirs of Walter Solón Romero Gonzales, in accordance with paragraphs 88.a), b) and d) and 89 of the […] Judgment;

 

d)            the amount of US$ 20.000,00 (twenty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Pablo Erick Solón Romero Oroza, in accordance with paragraphs 88.a) and d) and 89 of the […] Judgment;

 

e)             the amount of US$ 20.000,00 (twenty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Walter Solón Romero Oroza, in accordance with paragraphs 88.a) and d) and 89 of the […] Judgment.

 

8.             That the State must pay, as pecuniary damages:

 

a)             the amount of US$ 130,000.00  (one hundred thirty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, in her capacity as heir of José Carlos Trujillo Oroza and in relation to the income that he did not receive as a result of the facts in this case, in accordance with paragraphs 73, 75 and 76 of the […] Judgment;

 

b)            the amount of US$ 3.000,00 (three thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, for expenses incurred in the search for the victim, in accordance with paragraphs 74.a), 75 and 76 of the […] Judgment; and

 

c)             the amount of US$ 20.000,00 (twenty thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, to Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, for medical expenses caused by the facts in this case, in accordance with paragraphs 74.b), 75 and 76 of the […] Judgment.

 

9.             That the State must pay, as expenses and costs, to Mrs. Gladys Oroza de Solón Romero, the amount of US$ 5.400,00 (five thousand four hundred dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, and to the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), representative of the victim and family, the amount of US$ 4.000,00 (four thousand dollars of the United States of America) or its equivalent in Bolivian currency, in accordance with paragraph 129 of the […] Judgment.

 

10.           That the State must comply with the reparatory measures ordered by the present Judgment within six months of being notified of the same.  The incorporation of the crime of forced disappearance into national law shall be accomplished within a reasonable period of time, in the terms of paragraph 133 of the […] Judgment .

 

11.           That the payments ordered by the present Judgment will be exempt from any existing or future tax or duty. 

 

12.           That the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will supervise compliance with the present Judgment and will close the present case once the State has complied fully with all provisions of such Judgment.  Within 9 months of being notified of this Judgment, the State shall submit to the Court a report of the measures taken to comply with the said Judgment, in accordance with paragraph 140 of the […] Judgment.

 

Judges Cançado Trindade, García-Ramírez and Brower advised the Court of their Concurring Opinions, which are attached to [the] Judgment.

 

 

The Court approved its Annual Report (2001), considered several procedures in matters pending before the Court, and it analyzed the various reports submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and by the States involved in matters on which provisional measures have been adopted. Likewise, the Court studied the various reports submitted by the Inter-American Commission, the States involved, and the victims or their representatives in those cases which are in the stage of compliance with the Judgment.  The Court also considered various administrative matters.

 

The composition of the Court for this Session was as follows: Antônio A. Cançado Trindade (Brazil), President; Alirio Abreu- Burelli (Venezuela), Vice-President; Hernán Salgado-Pesantes (Ecuador); Oliver Jackman (Barbados); Sergio García-Ramírez (México), and Carlos Vicente de Roux-Rengifo (Colombia). In the Trujillo Oroza Case, Charles N. Brower participated as an ad hoc Judge, appointed by the Bolivian State.  The Secretary of the Court is Manuel E. Ventura-Robles, and the Deputy Secretary is Pablo Saavedra-Alessandri.

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States established in 1979, is formed by jurists of the highest moral standing and widely recognized competence in the area of human rights.  The judges are elected in an individual capacity by the General Assembly of the OAS, and cannot serve for more than two six-year terms.

 

 

For further information, please contact:

Manuel E. Ventura Robles, Secretary

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Apartado 6906-1000, San José, Costa Rica

 

Phone (506) 234-0581.  Fax (506) 234-0584.

 

Web site: www.corteidh.or.cr.

E-mail: corteidh@racsa.co.cr

 

San Jose, March 15, 2002.

 



(*) This translation is not official, and is for informative purposes only.  The official version of this press release is available in Spanish.

(**) The content of this press release is the responsibility of the Secretariat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The official text of the documents mentioned can be obtained through a written request to the Secretariat, at the address below.

 

[1]               The parties (representatives of the alleged victims, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the State of Trinidad and Tobago) were formally summoned for the public hearing by Order of the President of the Court of January 18, 2002.  Nevertheless, the State informed about its default on February 8, 2002.

 



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