Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Venezuela to the Inter-American Court

June 11, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12.270, Johan Alexis Ortiz, with regard to Venezuela.

The case involves the death of the young man Johan Alexis Ortiz on February 15, 1998, on the premises of the Caño Negro Rural Commandos (Comandos Rurales). Johan Alexis Ortiz was a student at the National Guard Training School of Cordero (Escuela de Formación de Guardias Nacionales de Cordero, ESGUARNAC), and he died after being shot during simulation exercises with real bullets. The exercises, held on the premises of the military facility, were a requirement to complete his officer training at the institution.

The Commission established that the military authorities themselves created the risk by failing to put proper controls in place related to operations and emergency plans as well as to the use of weapons and ammunition. The Commission also established that the State had not provided a satisfactory explanation for the use of live ammunition and failed to comply with safety measures. The Commission also concluded that the State had not responded properly or on a timely basis to the injuries suffered by Johan Alexis Ortiz, as it did not have specialized medical personnel or an ambulance on site that would enable him to receive medical care while he was being transferred to a medical center. This was especially serious as the exercises were taking place at a remote location.

In terms of domestic proceedings, between 1998 and 2001 the military justice system handled the investigation and the judicial case against those potentially responsible, in violation of the principles of independence and impartiality. Moreover, the Commission found multiple irregularities which show a lack of due diligence in the investigation, and determined that the guarantee of a reasonable time period was not met. Finally, the Commission established that the repeated complaints alleging acts of torture before the death of Johan Alexis Ortiz were not investigated.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State carry out a complete, impartial, and effective investigation into the established violations of human rights, in order to determine and punish anyone who masterminded and perpetrated the acts described; order any appropriate administrative, disciplinary, or criminal measures in response to State officials’ actions or omissions that contributed to the denial of justice and the impunity surrounding the facts in this case; and provide adequate reparation, both material and moral, for the human rights violations stated in the report. The Commission also recommended that the necessary measures be developed to ensure that the human rights of students at the National Guard Training School are properly protected in the training and educational courses and practices.

The Inter-American Commission submitted Case 12.270 to the Court’s jurisdiction on May 13, 2015, after the State of Venezuela made no response at all to the notification of the Merits Report. The Commission submitted to the Court the entirety of the facts in the Merits Report because it deemed that the State of Venezuela had not complied with the recommendations contained therein.

This case will enable the Inter-American Court to delve deeper into the use of lethal force in the context of training carried out by a State security force. Specifically, the Court is being asked for its opinion concerning precautionary and response mechanisms States should put into practice to prevent violations of the right to life and physical integrity of individuals who are members or students of a State security service. The case will also enable the Court to rule on the specifics of the duty to investigate with due diligence any deaths that occur under such circumstances.

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. 068/15