IACHR Publishes Friendly Settlement Agreement on Case Concerning the Failure to Investigate the Death of Omar Vázquez in Colombia

October 3, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has decided to approve the friendly settlement agreement concerning Case 13,232—Omar Ernesto Vázquez Agudelo, Colombia—and to publish approval report 115/23.

This case concerns the State's international responsibility for the failure to investigate the events that led to the alleged victim's death of methyl alcohol poisoning on September 9, 2002, while he was deprived of liberty at the Bellavista prison in Medellín, and for the subsequent failure to punish the individuals responsible for those events.

On March 23, 2021, the parties launched negotiations and signed a memorandum of understanding that led to a friendly settlement agreement signed on March 1, 2022. In this agreement, the Colombian State acknowledged its international responsibility, by omission, for violations of the rights held in Articles 8 (right to a fair trial) and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in accordance with Article 1.1 (obligation to respect rights) of that instrument, to the detriment of the family of Omar Vázquez Agudelo, for lack of diligence to investigate these events. This lack of diligence is particularly significant since Vázquez Agudelo was at the time subjected to the power of the State and the State was committed to protecting him and ensuring he remained safe.

The State committed to implementing the following redress measures: (1) holding a virtual public event to acknowledge its responsibility; (2) posting the approval report concerning this friendly settlement agreement on the websites of the National Institute of Prisons and Penitentiary Facilities and the National Legal Defense Agency, for a period of six months; (3) training guards at the Bellavista prison and penitentiary facility in Medellín, using the virtual training course designed for guards; and (4) providing financial compensation through the mechanism that was set up by Act 288 of 1996.

The IACHR approved the provisos held in this agreement and acknowledged full compliance with the event to acknowledge responsibility and with the provision of training for officers of the State. The IACHR said that compliance with all other commitments held in the agreement remained pending, so it would continue to monitor the agreement until full implementation had been verified.

The IACHR commends both parties on their efforts and agility to negotiate this friendly settlement agreement, which turned out to be compatible with the Convention's aims and purposes. The Commission commends the State on its efforts to develop a public policy concerning friendly settlements and alternative conflict-resolution. The IACHR invites the State to continue to use the friendly settlement mechanism to resolve other cases that are currently being addressed in the individual petition and case system. The Commission congratulates the petitioning party for all its efforts to take part in negotiations and to seek implementation of this agreement.

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. 236/23

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