Inter-American Court of Human Rights judgment of 12 March 2019 in the case Members of the Village of Chichupac and neighboring communities of the Municipality of Rabinal, Case of Molina Theissen and 12 other Guatemalan Cases) v. Guatemala (Interim Measures and Enforcement Supervision)".
The applicant was assisted in preparing a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Washington, USA).
Subsequently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights referred the applicant's complaint to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica). The complaint was then communicated to Guatemala.
The case successfully examined a complaint on the issue of the right to access to justice in connection with a bill that was supposed to announce an amnesty for all serious crimes committed during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala.
The case is considering the issue of the right to access to justice in connection with the bill, which was supposed to announce an amnesty for all serious crimes committed during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
In 2016, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as the Inter-American Court) issued a judgment in the case Residents of Chichupac Village and Adjacent Communities of Rabinal Municipality v. Guatemala. The case concerned, inter ilia, the enforced disappearances of 22 residents of the indigenous village of Chichupak and surrounding communities in Rabinal municipality, as well as the lack of an effective investigation into allegations of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture and sexual violence against members of these communities in operations carried out by the army and collaborators during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala. The Inter-American Court held, inter ilia, that Guatemala was internationally responsible for the violation of the applicants' right to access to justice, as there was no prompt investigation into the circumstances of the case. The Inter-American Court also found that the Guatemalan authorities were responsible for the enforced disappearances of 22 people and for failing to take the necessary steps to address the consequences of the displacement situation. With regard to reparations, the Inter-American Court of Justice ordered the Guatemalan authorities, inter ilia, to remove all de facto and de jure obstacles that contributed to impunity in the present case and to initiate, continue, facilitate and reopen the investigations necessary to identify and punish the individuals responsible for the human rights violations that took place in the case.
The case is currently under monitoring the execution of the Inter-American Court ruling. In February 2019, representatives of the victims filed an application for interim measures on the grounds that there were “serious threats to [the rights to] life and personal integrity” of some of the victims in the case, which arose after prosecutors reopened their investigation into the rape nine women - victims in the case, as well as after the imprisonment and preventive detention of seven people in May 2018. The interim relief application also referred to an alleged “vulnerable position” in which victims would be “materialized approval of Bill 5377”, which aimed to reform the 1996 National Reconciliation Act and an amnesty that was contrary to the Inter-American Court ruling.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
On the application of paragraph 2 of article 63 (interim measures), articles 4 (right to life) and 5 (right to humane treatment) of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter - ACHR). Pursuant to article 63, paragraph 2, of the ACHR, in cases of extreme seriousness and urgency and in order to avoid causing irreparable harm to persons, the Inter-American Court shall take such interim measures as it deems appropriate for the issues before it. With regard to the conditions required under article 63, paragraph 2, of the ACHR, the Inter-American Court found that there was a situation of risk to the life and personal integrity of nine women victims in the case in connection with the initiation and continuation of judicial investigations and criminal proceedings in relation to rape. which are supposed to have been committed against them. The Inter-American Court also noted that some of the victims or their relatives received threats, as a result of which they began to fear for their lives. The Inter-American Court emphasized that the measures taken by the Guatemalan authorities were not sufficient as they did not respond to the specific risks faced by the nine women victims. The Inter-American Court considered that the urgency requirement was respected because it was reasonable to assume that the risk to victims could be increased in connection with the hearing, which was to take place in the framework of the criminal proceedings, and in connection with the bill aimed at declaring an amnesty for all serious violations of rights a person committed during an internal armed conflict. In view of the above, the Inter-American Court decided that the possible approval of the draft law under consideration would place victims in a position of additional vulnerability, as it could lead to the implementation of threats and retaliation against the victims, witnesses, judges and prosecutors who participated in the proceedings.
The Inter-American Court has ordered the Guatemalan authorities to take the necessary and effective protective measures to guarantee the right to life and security of the nine victims in the case of alleged rape being investigated at the national level.
On the application of article 63, paragraph 2, articles 8 (right to a fair trial) and 25 (right to a legal defense) ACHR. Regarding Bill No. 5377 to reform the National Reconciliation Act of 1996, the Inter-American Court noted that the purpose of the bill was to grant "amnesty or completely eliminate criminal liability" for all crimes committed "during the internal armed conflict." With regard to the requirement of exceptional severity, the Inter-American Court has decided that the approval of this bill will have negative and irreparable consequences for the right to access to justice of victims in 14 cases in which the Inter-American Court has ordered the obligation to investigate, prosecute and possibly punish serious violations of rights person committed during an armed conflict. The approval of such a bill would ignore the Inter-American Court's ruling on Guatemala, as the purpose of the amnesty was to ensure impunity even in cases of serious human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict.