IACHR

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IACHR Takes Case involving Venezuela to the Inter-American Court

December 21, 2017

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
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 12.662, Robert Ignacio Díaz Loreto, David Octavio Díaz Loreto, Octavio Ignacio Díaz Álvarez, and members of their family, with regard to Venezuela.

The case involves the State of Venezuela’s international responsibility for the extrajudicial executions of the brothers Robert Ignacio and David Octavio Díaz Loreto and their father, Octavio Ignacio Díaz Álvarez, on January 6, 2003, by police officers of the Aragua State Security and Public Order Corps (CSOPEA) in Venezuela. With more than 14 years having gone by without a definitive judicial clarification of the facts, the IACHR determined that the Venezuelan State had failed to meet the burden of offering a satisfactory explanation to justify the use of lethal force in keeping with the principles of legality, absolute necessity, and proportionality. The IACHR therefore considered that, in accordance with relevant inter-American case law, in the absence of such an explanation it must be presumed that the use of lethal force was illegitimate.

The Commission identified similarities with the context and modus operandi of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela, which has come to the attention of the Inter-American human rights system in other cases. In addition, the IACHR determined that the deaths of the three family members took place as part of a police operation that created a risk of deprivation of the right to life, because its aims were contrary to the American Convention on Human Rights, and because at the time the operation began there was no imminent threat to persons, the only hypothesis that could justify the use of lethal force.

The Inter-American Commission also determined that the State violated guarantees and judicial protection during the investigation and criminal process. Among other aspects, the IACHR found that no line of investigation was pursued into possible ties between these events and the context of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela, with an especially high incidence in the state of Aragua, which was known to the State and specifically to high-level authorities such as the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic.

Finally, the Commission determined that the mental and moral integrity of the victims’ family members had been harmed by the pain and suffering inherent to the circumstances in which the three victims lost their lives, as well as the lack of response to family members’ attempts to pursue justice—particularly in a context in which there have also been complaints of threats and harassment against them because of their efforts to move the case forward.

In the Merits Report, the Commission recommended that Venezuela provide full redress for the human rights violations laid out in the report; continue the criminal investigation, in a diligent and effective manner and within a reasonable time frame, to fully clarify what happened, identify all those potentially responsible, and impose the appropriate punishment; and order the appropriate measures in response to the actions or omissions of State officials that contributed to denial of justice and impunity in this case.

In terms of non-repetition mechanisms, the IACHR indicated that Venezuela should implement training programs on international human rights standards, particularly geared toward the police in the state of Aragua and justice system operators; measures to ensure effective criminal, disciplinary, or administrative accountability in cases involving alleged abuse of power by law enforcement agents of the State; and legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure that the investigation is carried out with due diligence and in accordance with relevant international standards and the necessity and proportionality of the lethal use of force by police officers.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction on December 6, 2017, because it deemed that the State of Venezuela had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report. The State of Venezuela did not respond at all to the Merits Report. The Commission submitted all the facts and violations established in the Merits Report to the Inter-American Court.

This case once again reveals the context of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela by regional police forces, especially in the state of Aragua, with a clearly defined modus operandi. The case also points to the ongoing impunity for such acts as one of the elements of that context. In addition to issues related to the use of force, the case also opens the door for the Court to further develop its case law regarding cases in which there are indications of arbitrary use of force and the State does not undertake a diligent investigation to explain the death of one or several individuals in the context of a police operation, and specifically, in this case, based on a problematic definition of the concept of in flagrante delicto.

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 the respect for and defense of 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. 215/17