IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Rights Violations Through Failure to Investigate Disappearance in Guatemala

June 7, 2024

Related links

Notification to the I/A Court H.R.

Contact info

IACHR Press Office

[email protected]

Distribution List

Subscribe to our distribution list

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on April 21, 2024, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 13,726, with regard to Guatemala. This case concerns violations of the rights to life, personal integrity, a fair trial, and judicial protection in the disappearance of Héctor Reyes Pérez in 2003.

Héctor Reyes Pérez, manager of the Nueva Linda estate, went missing in 2003. He was last seen with a security guard, on the way to another estate. His wife reported him missing to the police. Several investigations and procedures were conducted, including interviews and expert tests on blood found in a vehicle. However, the perpetrators and masterminds of the presumed killing of Reyes Pérez were never identified, and the man's remains were never found. Investigations in this case led to the launch of proceedings after a body was found in a nearby beach. The dead man seemed similar to Reyes Pérez, but the case was shelved and the relevant photos went missing.

In Merits Report 398/21, the Commission found that the investigation into the disappearance of Héctor Reyes Pérez had evidenced deficiencies and negligence, including frequent changes in the leadership of the investigation and long periods with no prosecutor activity. This lack of continuity and coordination was a hurdle for the investigation. For instance, following the intervention of the special prosecutor, the case went three months without being assigned to a prosecutor. The IACHR said that authorities at various levels had failed to take timely action to locate the body of Reyes Pérez, which in turn had made forensic efforts and disinterment procedures more difficult.

The IACHR noted that members of the family of Reyes Pérez had suffered a significant emotional impact and had been revictimized due to the lack of an effective investigation and the changes in case authorities.

Based on the report's conclusions, the Inter-American Commission found that the State of Guatemala was liable for violations of the rights to life, personal integrity, a fair trial, and judicial protection held in Articles 4, 5.1, 7, 8.1, and 25.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights, concerning the obligations held in Article 1.1 of that instrument. The Commission also found that the State was liable at the international level for violations of the right to personal integrity held in Article 5.1 of the American Convention regarding the wife of Héctor Reyes Pérez and the couple's six children.

The Commission therefore recommended that the State adopt the following redress measures:

  1. Provide comprehensive reparations—both material and immaterial—for all human rights violations mentioned in the report, including redress and compensation measures
  2. Provide any physical and mental healthcare necessary for the rehabilitation of members of the family of Héctor René Reyes Pérez who request it, in agreement with them
  3. Implement an effective search plan to locate Héctor René Reyes Pérez (involving his family if they wish to be involved) and hand his remains over to his family, should his remains be identified
  4. Create and implement protocols to preserve the scenes of violent crimes and to identify bodies (this includes keeping adequate records of forensic efforts and of burials of unidentified individuals, to enable searches for missing persons)
  5. Strengthen the investigative capacity of the Public Prosecutor's Office with suitable human and technical resources to effectively investigate disappearances

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 129/24

10:00 AM