IACHR Publishes Friendly Settlement Agreement on Case Concerning the Failure to Investigate the Homicide of Teobaldo Martínez in Colombia

September 21, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has decided to approve the friendly settlement agreement concerning Case 14,577—Teobaldo Enrique Martínez Fuentes and Family, Colombia—and to publish approval report 110/23.

This case concerns the State's international responsibility for the failure to investigate the homicide of Teobaldo Enrique Martínez Fuentes by members of the Northern Bloc of the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), allegedly perpetrated on March 14, 1998, in the department of La Guajira.

On May 6, 2020, the parties launched negotiations and signed a memorandum of understanding that led to a friendly settlement agreement signed on July 26, 2020. In this agreement, the Colombian State acknowledged its international responsibility, by omission, for violations of the rights held in Articles 8 (right to a fair trial) and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in accordance with Article 1.1 (obligation to respect rights) of that instrument, to the detriment of the family of Teobaldo Enrique Martínez Fuentes, for lack of diligence to investigate his murder. This lack of diligence led to a failure to identify, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of this crime.

The State committed to implementing the following redress measures: (1) holding a private event to acknowledge its responsibility; (2) posting this friendly settlement agreement on the website of the National Legal Defense Agency; (3) coordinating healthcare measures (including medical, psychological, and psychiatric care) in favor of relatives of the victim; and (4) providing financial compensation through the mechanism that was set up by Act 288 of 1996.

The IACHR highlighted full compliance with measures concerning the event to acknowledge responsibility and noted that other commitments remained pending. The Commission will therefore continue to monitor this agreement until full implementation has been verified.

The IACHR commends both parties on their efforts while negotiating over two months this friendly settlement agreement, which turned out to be compatible with the Convention's aims and purposes. The Commission commends the State on its efforts to develop a public policy concerning friendly settlements and alternative conflict-resolution. The IACHR invites the State to continue to use the friendly settlement mechanism to resolve other cases that are currently being addressed in the petition and case system. Finally, the Commission commends the petitioning party on all its efforts to take part in negotiations and to seek implementation of this agreement.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 220/23

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