Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Peru to the Inter-American Court

October 10, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in case 12,700 Agustín Bladimiro Zegarra Marín concerning Peru.

The case concerns violation of the principle of presumption of innocence and the court’s obligation to provide a reasoned judgment, to the detriment of Agustín Bladimiro Zegarra Marín, who on November 8, 1996 was convicted by the Superior Court’s Fifth Criminal Chamber of several crimes, using statements as the only evidence. Notwithstanding exculpatory evidence that directly refuted those statements, the Court stated that the charges were “feasible”. The Commission concluded that the criminal conviction of an individual based solely on the “feasibility” of the assertions made in a statement must be examined in light of the principle of presumption of innocence. Furthermore, the Commission found that the burden of proof had been turned upside down, which was patently evident in the conviction, where the Fifth Criminal Court wrote that “no convincing rebuttal evidence has been presented that would show the defendant to be completely innocent of the crimes of which he stands accused.” Furthermore, the Commission found that the December 17, 1997 decision on the victim’s appeal for a reversal of the court ruling did not respect the right to appeal a judgment and that neither the appeal seeking reversal nor the appeal for review, decided on August 24, 1999, constituted effective remedies against the violations of due process committed with the conviction handed down by the court of first instance.

The Inter-American Commission referred case 12,700 to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction on August 22, 2014, after concluding that the Peruvian State had not complied with the recommendations made in its Merits Report. In that report, the Commission had recommended that the State order the measures necessary so that, should Agustín Bladimiro Zegarra Marín so request, his conviction be vacated and his case be reassessed in accordance with the principle of presumption of innocence; if the results of the assessment so dictate, the State shall purge the victim’s criminal record and wipe out any other effect of the conviction and order full reparations.

This case could build upon the Inter-American system’s case law with respect to one aspect of due process that the Inter-American Court has thus far not elaborated upon at length, which is the principle of presumption of innocence. The case is an opportunity for the Court to establish the parameters that have to be considered to determine whether, based on international human rights law, that principle was violated in a given case, without delving into an analysis of criminal law. Specifically, the Court could issue a finding concerning the close relationship that exists between the duty to provide a statement of reasons and the principle of presumption of innocence in cases like the present one, where the act through which that principle was violated is the reasoning of the judgment.

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 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. 116/14