IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Girl's Death After Being Hit by a Collapsing Sculpture in a Public Place in Argentina

May 2, 2024

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on March 28, 2024, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 13,506, with regard to Argentina. This case concerns human rights violations linked to the death of the young girl Marcela Brenda Iglesias Ribaudo and to impunity derived from the investigation of those events.

In 1996, six-year-old Marcela Iglesias Ribaudo died when an iron sculpture fell on her in a public place. Criminal proceedings in this case involved the sculptor, the woman in charge of the art gallery that handled the sculpture, and various public officials in charge of safety and oversight in the area. Despite evidence suggesting negligent maintenance and negligent safety measures concerning the sculpture, a series of legal remedies including references to a statute of limitations led to the expiry in 2005 of criminal actions for manslaughter in this case, in a decision that was upheld in 2007 by the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice.

In Merits Report 266/22, the Commission found that the State had failed to take adequate action to prevent the harm caused by the fallen sculpture in an area where several adults and children were active. This omission involved a failure to supervise and audit the firms who were working in the area, which would have enabled the authorities to identify and mitigate the risks linked to the sculpture.

The IACHR further noted that the criminal investigation that followed this incident involved subpoenas for private individuals and State officials, but that criminal actions expired due to the retroactive application of new regulations concerning the term of the statute of limitations. The IACHR assessed whether this investigation had been conducted with due diligence and found that the many remedies and recusal motions filed by the suspects' defenses and the changes in judicial authorities in charge of the case delayed proceedings and led to their expiry.

Finally, the IACHR found that the failure by judicial authorities to effectively pursue this case and their delays in addressing various challenges amounted to violations of the rights to a fair trial and to judicial protection of the Iglesias Ribaudo family.

The Inter-American Commission therefore found that the State of Argentina was liable for violations of Marcela Brenda Iglesias Ribaudo's rights to life, personal integrity, and the protection of children held in Articles 4, 5, and 19 of the American Convention, in keeping with the obligations held in Article 1.1 of the same instrument. The Commission further found that the State of Argentina was liable for violations of the rights of Eduardo Iglesias and Nora Esther Ribaudo to a fair trial and judicial protection held in Articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention, in keeping with the obligations held in Article 1.1 of the same instrument.

The Commission recommended that the State adopt the following redress measures:

  1. Provide comprehensive reparations—both material and immaterial—for all rights violations mentioned in the report
  2. Provide any physical and mental healthcare necessary for the rehabilitation of members of Marcela Brenda Iglesias Ribaudo's family who request it, in agreement with them
  3. Take action to enable Marcela Brenda Iglesias Ribaudo's parents to access judicial truth concerning the events that surrounded her death
  4. Adopt all legislative, administrative, and any other measures necessary to ensure that cultural activities are adequately supervised and audited, including measures to ensure proper maintenance of sculptures placed by third parties in public spaces where children are frequently active

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. 085/24

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