IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has decided to publish the report on Case 12,681, concerning Argentina, which was approved on October 5, 2021. This case concerns violations of the right to a defense in a criminal case against Marcos Alejandro Martín, who was being tried for robbery.
In its Merits Report, the IACHR assessed the link between the burden of proof and the right to a defense. The Commission considered that this right needs to be protected from the moment an individual is singled out as a suspect in a crime, so the fact that Martín's lawyer had been absent from a testimonial statement violated the rights held in Articles 8.2(c) and (f) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The Commission established that rights violations committed at the testimonial statement continued throughout the proceedings and that the situation crystallized in a conviction and in decisions concerning Marcos Alejandro Martín's subsequent appeals. This testimonial statement was crucial for the conviction. This led to a violation of the right to a defense that was particularly serious, given that, when there is no other evidence concerning essential aspects to establish criminal responsibility, this further entails a violation of the presumption of innocence.
Finally, the IACHR established not only that the National Chamber of Criminal Appeals had consolidated the violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence, but also that the language of the conviction showed that the burden of proof had been inverted in this case. The Commission noted that individuals should only be deprived of liberty following a conviction issued in criminal proceedings where they have had the opportunity to defend themselves, which did not happen in this case.
In September 2021, the State of Argentina submitted to the IACHR the court decision that set compensation for material and immaterial damage, and the petitioning party accepted this decision. The Commission commended the State on its efforts to comply with recommendations and welcomed the decision made in favor of Marcos Alejandro Martín, which reflected the reparations determined in the Merits Report.
In August 1998, in Buenos Aires, an individual was robbed by two young men while on public transportation. That individual filed a formal complaint about these events and identified Martín as one of the attackers, so Martín was arrested. Proceedings were launched against him, and he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The petition alleged that the conviction issued in these proceedings was arbitrary, as it had taken into consideration as substantial evidence an inconsistent statement from the alleged victim of the robbery, when that statement was added to the case at the public hearing, before being assessed by the defense. The petition further alleged a violation of the right to appeal the conviction and denounced that Martín's deprivation of liberty had been arbitrary.
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.