IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Colombia to the Inter-American Court

July 25, 2016

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 11.482, Noel Emiro Omeara Carrascal et al., with regard to Colombia.

The case has to do with a succession of serious human rights violations committed against three members of the same family. Specifically, these were the attempted murder of Noel Emiro Omeara Carrascal on January 28, 1994, and his subsequent death; the disappearance and execution of his son, Manuel Guillermo Omeara Miraval, beginning on August 27, 1994; and the attempted murder and subsequent death of Héctor Álvarez Sánchez, father-in-law of Manuel Guillermo Omeara Miraval, on October 21, 1994. The Commission examined the facts of the case in the light of a context of coordination and acquiescence between members of security forces and an illegal armed group, which the State failed to disprove by means of a diligent investigation.

In terms of what happened to Noel Emiro Omeara Carrascal, the Commission concluded that the State failed to comply with its duty to provide protection, which favored the attack on him, and also that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that there was collaboration of State agents. As to the disappearance and subsequent execution of Manuel Guillermo Omeara Miraval, the Commission determined that he was deprived of his liberty by members of a paramilitary group that was operating in the area, and it found multiple instances of circumstantial evidence of State participation in the incidents; thus it determined that what happened to him was attributable to the State. The Commission also determined that what occurred between his disappearance and execution amounted to torture. With respect to the attack on and subsequent death of Héctor Álvarez Sánchez, the Commission determined that the State had not provided him the protection he needed, which allowed members of a paramilitary group to shoot him, leaving him in a paraplegic state and unable to speak; he later died. The State was unable to disprove the multiple instances of circumstantial evidence of its responsibility for the links with the illegal armed groups that committed these acts.

Notwithstanding serious circumstantial evidence of responsibility of State agents and members of paramilitary groups, the State has not managed to demonstrate that it has investigated that evidence in a meaningful, timely, and thorough manner. The Commission also determined that as a consequence of the State’s delays, some of the alleged perpetrators have since died and that, more than 21 years after these events occurred, the truth about what happened remains unknown.

In its Merits Report on the case, the Commission recommended that the State of Colombia provide comprehensive reparation to the families of Noel Emiro Omeara Carrascal, Manuel Guillermo Omeara Miraval, and Héctor Álvarez Sánchez, for both the monetary and non-monetary damages resulting from these events, including relevant measures of compensation, satisfaction, and rehabilitation. It also recommended that the State conduct a complete, impartial, effective, and prompt investigation of the facts so as to clear up what happened and establish and, where appropriate, punish the perpetrators and masterminds of these events and adopt the appropriate administrative, disciplinary, or criminal justice measures to investigate and, where appropriate, punish the acts or omissions of State officials that contributed to the denial of justice and the impunity surrounding the facts in the case. The IACHR also recommended that Colombia adopt the necessary measures to ensure that similar events do not happen in the future, including strengthening protection mechanisms for family members and witnesses in the framework of investigations into human rights violations and strengthening investigative capabilities with regard to contexts and patterns of joint activity between State agents and illegal armed groups.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on May 21, 2016, because it found that Colombia had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Merits Report. The Commission submitted to the Court the entirety of the facts in the Merits Report.

This case will enable the Court to further develop its case law on the State’s international responsibility with regard to different situations of collaboration and acquiescence between State agents and certain non-State actors. In this regard, the Court will be able to analyze the existence of a context in a specific region of collaboration and acquiescence, as well as the State’s obligation to disprove, through a proper investigation, any circumstantial evidence of State participation in human rights violations.

In this particular case, the Court will be able to analyze the convergence of the obligation to respect rights—in connection with the obligation not to act with the collaboration and acquiescence of non-State actors—and the obligation to guarantee, specifically to guarantee protection, in a context of previously known harassment attributable to non-State actors who acted in these situations of collaboration and acquiescence. Both obligations should be analyzed taking into account the context of the internal armed conflict in which these events took place.

Given the specifics of the case, the Court will also be able to develop its case law with regard to the obligation to investigate serious human rights violations that not only are part of the same context of collaboration, as described above, but are related to each other. The Court will be able to analyze the parameters of due diligence that should be observed in a case with these characteristics.

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 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. 101/16