Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Guatemala to the Inter-American Court

February 1, 2018

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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 11.782, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Revolorio, Miguel Ángel López Calo, and Aníbal Archila Pérez, with regard to Guatemala.

The case involves due process violations committed in the context of criminal proceedings for the crime of murder and attempted murder by members of the Guatemalan National Police. The victims were sentenced to death on May 23, 1996, after a court had established their “future dangerousness.” This violates the principle of legality, as it incorporates predictions and speculations and is an expression of an offender-based criminal law which is incompatible with essential principles in a democratic society. Moreover, the President of the trial court that convicted the victims had acted as a supervising judge in the investigation phase, which violates the guarantee of impartiality. In addition, the State violated the right to legal counsel; the duty to provide reasons for a decision, based on presumption of innocence; the right to appeal a conviction; and the right to judicial protection. The State also violated the right to personal integrity regarding the circumstances of “death row,” as the victims spent between 3 and 14 years awaiting execution while being held in inadequate conditions of detention. Finally, the IACHR determined that the Guatemalan State violated the right to life by imposing the death penalty in a case that involved violations of multiple due process protections.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that Guatemala provide full monetary and nonmonetary reparations for the human rights violations, including fair compensation and measures of redress and rehabilitation for Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Revolorio and Miguel Ángel López Calo, in consultation with the next of kin of Aníbal Archila Pérez. In the case of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Revolorio and Miguel Ángel López Calo, the Commission recommended that the necessary measures be provided to set aside the convictions and carry out new proceedings in which there is respect for due process.

The Commission commends the fact that the death penalty has not been imposed by the judicial authorities for 17 years and that for more than a decade, the death sentence has been commuted for those already convicted. In this regard, the Commission is pleased to observe that because of actions taken by both the executive and judicial branches, 17 years have gone by without the death penalty being imposed or carried out in Guatemala. In addition, in March 2016 the Constitutional Court of Guatemala declared the death penalty to be unconstitutional for the crime of murder, and on October 24, 2017, it found that the application of the death penalty was unconstitutional for five crimes included in the Criminal Code, and revoked references to the death penalty that allowed for its application under the Anti-Drug Trafficking Law. A spokesman for the Constitutional Court indicated that “for all practical purposes” there is now no crime for which the death penalty could be applied in the country.

The Commission understands that, in practice, the Guatemalan State has been moving toward abolishing the death penalty, which is consistent with the spirit of the American Convention on this issue. Taking that trend into account, and considering that the IACHR indicated in its report The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition that the States should gradually eliminate the death penalty, the Commission is asking that the Inter-American Court order the State of Guatemala to adopt the necessary measures so that its internal laws are consistent with that practice, and thus continue on the path toward abolition.

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. 017/18