Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Argentina to the Inter-American Court

January 22, 2018

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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 12.804, Néstor Rolando López et al., with regard to Argentina.

The case has to do with the State’s international responsibility for violating the right to humane treatment with dignity; the right for punishment to be geared toward resocialization; the right not to suffer arbitrary interference in family life; and the right to protection of the family, to the detriment of Néstor Rolando López, Miguel Ángel González Mendoza, José Heriberto Muñoz Zabala, and Hugo Alberto Blanco. The victims were convicted of crimes in the province of Neuquén and after being deprived of liberty in that province were transferred to other federal detention centers located at great distances (between 800 and 2,000 kilometers) from their circle of family and friends, from the judges in charge of enforcing the sentences, and, in some cases, from their defense counsel. The Commission also determined that Argentina bore international responsibility for violating the right to mental and moral integrity, the right not to suffer arbitrary interference in family life, and the right to protection of the family to the detriment of the households specified in the Report on the Merits.

The IACHR determined that the transfers had an impact on the inmates’ possibility of receiving regular visits from family and friends, and therefore on the possibility of maintaining contact with those closest to them. This situation was not due to temporary exceptional circumstances but lasted for many years. Given that the judicial remedies sought were ineffective, the IACHR also determined that the right to judicial protection had been violated.

In its Report on the Merits of the case, the Commission recommended that Argentina provide full redress for the human rights violations that had been found, including just compensation to include the material and non-material harm caused. It also recommended that measures be adopted to prevent a repetition of these violations, including the necessary legislative adjustments at the federal and provincial levels to ensure that those convicted can serve their sentence in a detention center close to their family and friends and where the courts assigned to enforce the sentences are located.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on January 11, 2018, because it deemed that Argentina had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Report on the Merits.

This case will enable the Court to develop case law on an issue it has not yet addressed through adversarial cases, which has to do with the right to family visits as an essential element of humane and decent treatment that applies to everyone deprived of liberty, as well as its implications in view of the right to family. The Court can also address the issue of how arbitrary and unjustified transfers of inmates to places far from their families, defense counsel, and/or enforcement judges can have an impact on the exercise of their rights.

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. 009/18