Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Argentina to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

November 26, 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 (IA Court) over Case 12.315, Carlos Alberto Fernández Prieto and Carlos Alejandro Tumbeiro, involving Argentina.

The case concerns illegal and arbitrary detentions by officers of the Buenos Aires Province Police Force to the detriment of Carlos Alberto Fernández Prieto, in May 1992, and Carlos Alejandro Tumbeiro, in January 1998. The IACHR concluded that the arrests were made without a warrant and the detainees were not caught in the act of committing an offense. In neither case did the police records establish what the objective factors were that gave rise to a reasonable degree of suspicion that the detainees had committed an offense.

The IACHR stated that in the Carlos Alberto Fernández Prieto case, no explanation was provided whatsoever, while in the Carlos Alejandro Tumbeiro case, the explanation entailed an alleged “state of nervousness” and “inconsistency” between the clothing the detainee was wearing, the objects he was carrying, and the area in which he was arrested, which are insufficient grounds for suspicion of having committed a crime.

The IACHR also concluded that the justifications for the arrests suggest discrimination on the grounds of appearance-based prejudices. Consequently, it established that the arrests and searches in question were illegal and did not constitute nonarbitrary treatment, and that authorities did not go on to provide effective forms of redress since they not only continued with proceedings despite the absence of just cause, founded only on suspicion, but also accepted the reasons given by the police officers as being legitimate. In the IACHR’s opinion, Argentina is responsible for violating the rights to personal liberty, judicial guarantees, honor and dignity, and judicial protection established in articles 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Carlos Alberto Fernández Prieto and Carlos Alejandro Tumbeiro.

In the Merits Report on these cases, the IACHR recommended that Argentina make full reparation for the moral and material human rights violations that had been found to have taken place to the detriment of Carlos Alberto Fernández Prieto and Carlos Alejandro Tumbeiro. This reparation must take into account both the inappropriateness of the initial arrest and search procedure, and the prosecution, pretrial detention, and conviction that followed based on the findings of these initial investigations. The IACHR also recommended that legislative, administrative, or other types of measures be taken to prevent repetition of the human rights violations discussed in this report. In particular, the state shall ensure that legislation regulating police power to arrest and search people suspected of committing a crime in public places stipulates that such procedures must be based on objective grounds and that these must be justified in every case. The state shall also adopt measures to provide adequate training for police officers to prevent abuses from taking place in the course of duty. This should include specific training prohibiting the abuse of power and making arrests based on stereotypical profiling. The state should also ensure that effective legal remedies are in put place when there are reports of abuses of power as the police go about their duties.

The IACHR filed the application on November 13, 2018, as it considered that Argentina had not complied with the recommendations put forward in the Merits Report and that the victims deserved justice and reparation.

This case provides the court with an opportunity to expand its jurisprudence on the requirements and conditions under which persons may be detained by police officers with no arrest warrant when not in the act of committing a crime. There should be a particular focus on safeguards to ensure that police power to arrest people on the grounds of suspicion is legal and entails arbitrary treatment, and that evidence obtained during such arrests is valid for use during the trial, according to the standards of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

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. 252/18