IACHR Brings Paraguay Case on International Restitution Process before the IA Court

February 16, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — On January 7, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over the case of Arnaldo Javier Córdoba and D., concerning Paraguay, regarding the State's international responsibility for the violation of the rights to humane treatment and a fair trial, the right to a family, and the best interests of the child, in the context of an international restitution process.

D. was born in Argentina in 2004 to Arnaldo Javier Córdoba, an Argentinian national, and his wife M.R.G.A., a Paraguayan national. Baby D. was diagnosed with epilepsy from the age of 10 months and was taken to Paraguay by their mother in 2006 without their father's consent. The child's father, Arnaldo J. Córdoba, subsequently filed a request for international restitution with the Department of International Legal Assistance at Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, which requested that Paraguay's National Secretariat for Children and Adolescents restore the custody of D. The specialist trial court that heard the case made the request, and the Court of Appeals confirmed the sentence in its entirety, finding that the child had been abducted by their mother, as did the Supreme Court.

When a restitution hearing was convened for the child D. to be presented before the legal authorities, M.R.G.A disappeared with the child, who the authorities did not find until 2015. At this point, the Paraguayan courts issued a protective custody order in favor of the child's maternal aunt and ordered that an acclimatization regime be implemented to facilitate gradual contact between the father, Arnaldo J. Córdoba, his son D., and the father's family, and for the child to begin psychological treatment. In 2017, it was ruled that the child would remain in Paraguay.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR observed that the authorities did not prevent D.'s disappearance and that there were times in which it is unclear whether they took action to ascertain the child's whereabouts; and that, when the child had been located, the State should have facilitated a reunion with D.'s father and implemented a visitation regime in accordance with the child's best interests. Likewise, the number of visits ordered was small, not all of them took place, and no alternatives were offered to the father in order to gradually build a closer tie with his child, considering that he lived in Argentina.

Regarding the decision for D. to stay in Paraguay, the IACHR found no evidence of an analysis of its effect on the father's rights, nor the reasons why it was better for D. to be in the custody of an aunt and not their mother. It also noted that D.'s current legal situation is worrisome, since there is no definitive sentence containing a comprehensive analysis of the situation to support the custody decision, nor are there measures in place to establish a visitation regime with D.'s father, thus affecting the child's right to identity.

Finally, the IACHR concluded that the State of Paraguay was responsible for violating the rights to humane treatment, a fair trial, private life, protection for the family, children's rights, and judicial protection enshrined in the American Convention in relation to the obligations established in articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument, to the detriment of D. and Arnaldo J. Córdoba.

In this regard, the IACHR recommended that the State: make full reparations for the violations declared; adopt an urgent plan to improve the relationship between D. and D.'s father, including specific dates and measures, specialist support, and resources for travel; adopt a protocol for the implementation of international restitution proceedings that respects the rights of children and adolescents, in accordance with inter-American standards; and provide authorities and other competent professionals with training on international abduction in order to respect and guarantee the rights of minors, their parents, and/or family members.

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. 033/22

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