Decision declaring a communication admissible
(Case subsequently discontinued or withdrawn)
Communication No. 131/1982*
Submitted by: N. G. (name deleted) on 29 December 1982
Alleged victim: D.C.B.
State party: Uruguay
Declared admissible: 25 July 1984 (twenty-second session)
Subject matter: Detention of Uruguayan citizen by military authorities
Procedural issues: Standing of author--Exhaustion of domestic remedies
Substantive issues: Physical and psychological torture--Detention incommunicado
Articles of the Covenant: 7 and 10
Articles of the Optional Protocol: 1 and 5 (2) (b)
1.1. The author of the communication (initial letter dated 29 December 1982 and further letters of 30 May 1983 and 4 January 1984) is N.G., an Austrian citizen (since 1981), residing at present in Austria. She submits her communication on behalf of D.C.B., a Uruguayan worker detained in Libertad prison.
1.2. The author alleges that Mr. D.C.B. was arrested by members of the Uruguayan security forces in front of his place of work in Montevideo on 23 March 1982. His family was informed only eight months later of his detention at Libertad prison to which he allegedly was transferred after having been held incommunicado and under torture at the Cavalry Regiment No. 4. (His family could discern torture marks when first visiting him in prison.) The author further states that prison visits for the family are rare and take place without direct contact with the prisoner, by telephone, in wire-tapped booths, under the control of women prison guards. The author adds that after each visit the tape-recorded conversations are studied by psychiatrists. She also states that every two weeks Mr. D.C.B. is permitted to write a one-page letter to his family, which is, however, subject to arbitrary censorship by prison officials. (The author encloses a copy of the only letter received by Mr. D.C.B.'s family by the time of the submission of the case to the Human Rights Committee. Mr. D.C.B. had not yet been brought to trial.)
1.3. As far as the exhaustion of domestic remedies is concerned, Mrs. N.G. affirms that a request for habeas corpus submitted by the family immediately after Mr. D.C.B.'s disappearance and a solicitud de apareciemiento introduced a month later remained without result; and that consequently all available domestic remedies have been exhausted in the case.
1.4. The author also states that, before submitting the case to the Human Rights Committee, efforts had been undertaken, without avail, to bring the case before the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Austrian Red Cross.
1.5. The author claims that Mr. D. C. B. is a victim of a breach by
Uruguay of articles 2, 3, 7, 9 10, 16, 19 and 26 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights.
2. By its decision of 17 March 1983 the Working Group of the Human Rights Committee transmitted the communication under rule 91 of the provisional rules of procedure to the State party, requesting information and observations relevant to the admissibility of the communication and asking for copies of any court orders or decisions relevant to this case. The author was also requested to furnish detailed information as to the grounds and circumstances justifying her acting on behalf of the alleged victim.
3. In response to the Working Group's request, the author informed the Committee by letter of 30 May 1983 that she was acting at the request of the alleged victim's family, in view of her long-standing friendship with them. In addition the author gave the name and address of the alleged victim's wife, in case the Committee should wish to contact her in order to verify the author's standing to submit a communication on behalf of Mr. D. C. B. By letter dated 16 June 1984, the alleged victim's wife confirmed the authority of N. G. to act in the case before the Human Rights Committee.
4. In its submission under rule 91, dated 8 November 1983, the State party objects to the admissibility of the case because "the appropriate procedural remedies in this instance have not been exhausted, since the case is pending judgement". The Government of Uruguay also comments on the author's submission, stating that "it considers the language of the communication inappropriate, in that it uses expressions such as 'concentration camp' to refer to Military Detention Establishment No. 1, which amply meets the requirements of a detention centre that is a model of its kind. Moreover, it -should be emphasized that Mr. D. C. B. was not subjected to any kind of physical or psychological coercion and was at all times treated in accordance with the applicable legal provisions. Lastly, it should be pointed out that this person was committed to stand trial for the offences of 'subversive association' and 'action to upset the Constitution in the degree of conspiracy followed by preparatory acts', under the Military Penal Code."
5.1. In a further submission dated 4 January 1984, the author comments on the State party's submission and alleges that political prisoners at the "Military Detention Centre No. I " take a physical and psychological battering, as illustrated by the following general examples:
A. The selective and arbitrary use of punishment, including confinement for up to three consecutive months in "punishment cells" compounded by the fact that prisoners are not generally informed of the reasons for such punishment. It necessarily follows that there is no possibility of avoiding such punishment.
B. Of the same order are the surprise searches of cells carried out at night, during which personal belongings are stolen and/or destroyed, and the super-aggressiveness of the guards on duty.
C. In addition, there are many cases in which the officer responsible for the custody and welfare of prisoners has himself participated in the interrogation and torture of a prisoner at other detention centres, a practice which generates pathological anxiety in the prisoner.
D. Another variety of violence is the obligatory sharing of a cell with prisoners who are under psychiatric treatment. One well-known case is that of José M. S., who refused to share his cell with someone who, as well as being a danger to a normal prisoner, was putting his own mental health at risk; as a result, José M. S. was held in a punishment cell for 130 days and, on conviction, exactly two years more were added to his sentence.
E. Needless to say, medical assistance is in flagrant contradiction with Hippocratic ethics, since prisoners suffering from psychological problems or psychiatric illnesses (mainly on the second floor) are not allowed out for more than one hour per day and are given no treatment other than the enforced injection of psychotropic drugs, which are very dangerous because of their side-effects.
With regard to the psychological variety of torture, mention may be made of:
(a) The arbitrary suspension of family visits;
(b) The arbitrary suspension of correspondence;
(c) The excessive censorship of correspondence;
(d) The strict ban on any communication between prisoners, including prisoners linked by family ties;
(e) Degrading work by way of punishment.
5.2. With regard to the specific case of the alleged victim, the author refers to a letter dated 21 Nov., 1982 from Dr. B. C. B. stating that when he visited his brother and client in jail, "I also witnessed the torture to which he was subjected". No details are however provided in this respect.
6. On the basis of the information before it, the Committee finds that it is not precluded by article 5 (2) (a) of the Optional Protocol from considering the communication, as there is no indication and the State party has not claimed that the same matter is currently being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement. As to the question of exhaustion of domestic remedies, the Committee notes that, although the trial of D. C. B. is pending, the allegations of violations of the Covenant relate to his detention incommunicado for eight months, from March to November 1982, during which time his whereabouts were not made known to his family and to ill-treatment in prison, in respect of which the State party has not shown that there is or was an effective domestic remedy which the alleged victim has failed to exhaust. The Committee therefore is unable to conclude that in the circumstances of this case there are domestic remedies which could have been effectively Pursued with respect to these alleged violations. Accordingly, the Committee finds that the communication is not inadmissible under article 5 (2) (a) and (b) of the Optional Protocol.
7. The Human Rights Committee therefore decides:
(1) That the author is justified in acting on behalf of D.C.B.
(2) That the communication is admissible with respect to allegations of ill-treatment and detention incommunicado;
(3) That, in accordance with article 4 (2) of the Optional Protocol, the State party shall be requested to submit to the Committee, within six months of the date of the transmittal to it of this decision, written explanations or statements clarifying the matter and the remedy, if any, that may have been taken by it;
(4) That the State party be informed that the written explanations or statements submitted by it under article 4 (2) of the Optional Protocol must relate primarily to the substance of the matter under consideration. The Committee stresses that, in order to perform its responsibilities, it requires specific responses to the allegations which have been made by the author of the communication and the State party's explanations of the actions taken by it. The State party is again requested to enclosed, copies of any court orders or decisions of relevance to the matters under consideration, and also (a) to inform the Committee whether the alleged victim has been brought before the military judge of first instance in person and what are the relevant laws and practices in this respect and (b) to inform the Committee as to the outcome of the trial of first instance of D.C.B. and whether the judgement of the court of first instance is subject to appeal;
(5) That any explanations or statements received from the State party shall be communicated by the Secretary-General under rule 93 (3) of the provisional rules of procedure of the Committee to the author, with the request that any comments which she may wish to submit thereon should reach the Human Rights Committee in care of the Centre for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva, within six weeks of the date of transmittal;
(6) That this decision be communicated to the State party and to the author of the communications.
At its twenty-fourth session the Committee discontinued examination of communication No. 131/1982 following the receipt of a letter from the author, dated 17 January 1985, indicating that the alleged victim had been released and requesting the Committee to consider the case closed.
*Not previously published in the annual report of the Human Rights Committee.