IACHR Files Case Concerning El Salvador with IA Court on Lack of Due Diligence in Criminal Investigation

February 14, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — On January 12, 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 Miguel Angel Aguirre Magaña Case, concerning El Salvador, on the State's international responsibility for the lack of due diligence in the criminal investigation into serious injuries that caused a disability to the victim.

In 1993, Mr. Aguirre, who was a judicial officer at the time, was traveling in a vehicle with a judge and a court clerk to conduct a judicial proceeding. During the trip, a device exploded inside the vehicle, causing caused serious injuries, including the amputation of a leg and the loss of hearing in his right ear. The explosion was allegedly caused by the detonation of a grenade that the judge was carrying, which Aguirre reported to the judicial authorities. In 2004, the trial judge ruled for the case to be provisionally suspended, and the Chamber of the Third Section of the West confirmed this decision.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR noted factors that revealed omissions and irregularities in the criminal investigation and the clarification of the facts. First, it underlined that the judicial officer who was initially responsible for the case only conducted visual inspections, did not request any due diligence, and nor did they take statements from Mr. Aguirre, the accused, or the witnesses.

Between 1993 and 2001, the case was transferred to at least five different judicial authorities due to various requests for the court to be prevented from hearing the case because of alleged links with the accused. Furthermore, during the eleven years that the proceedings lasted, only four inspections were carried out at the scene of the events, and no other additional diligence took place. All of these factors reflect a lack of due diligence in the research, clarification of the facts, and punishment of those responsible, which led the accused to be acquitted and created a situation of impunity.

Finally, with regard to the duration of the process, the IACHR underlined that the investigation was not complex and that there are no factors to suggest that the victim hampered the investigation. It also noted that there were long periods during which no activity took place. Furthermore, Miguel Angel Aguirre's disability meant that the investigations and criminal proceedings should have been carried out with greater diligence and speed, making the fact that the proceedings took eleven years entirely unreasonable.

In view of the above, the IACHR concluded that the State of El Salvador was responsible for violating the rights to a fair trial and judicial protection enshrined in articles 8.1 and 25.1 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations established in articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument, to the detriment of Miguel Ángel Aguirre Magaña. The recommendations made to the State include the following: full reparation for the violations listed above; provision of the necessary physical and mental healthcare measures, if the victim so wishes; and the implementation of permanent training programs for judicial authorities on due diligence and access to justice for people with disabilities.

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. 028/22

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