Press Release

IACHR Brings Nicaragua Case before the IA Court

May 2, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 12.722, Pedro Bacilio Roche Azaña and one other, involving Nicaragua.

The case concerns the extrajudicial execution of Pedro Bacilio Roche Azaña and the injuries suffered by his brother, Patricio Roche Azaña, on April 14, 1996, as a result of shots being fired at the vehicle in which they were traveling and which passed through two immigration checkpoints, allegedly without stopping when requested to do so. The IACHR found that there were no indications that the migrants in the vehicle or the driver were armed nor of their having carried out any act of aggression that could be interpreted as a threat to the state or any other form of violence that posed a threat to human life and thus merited the use of lethal armed force as a last, but necessary, resort. The IACHR once again stated that the use of lethal weapons against migrants as a means of stopping an escaping vehicle at police or immigration checkpoints will always be arbitrary and contrary to the principles of legality, absolute necessity, and proportionality, unless there has been an act of aggression or other signs that human life is in danger. Consequently, the IACHR concluded that the use of lethal force was arbitrary and contrary to such principles, and found the state to be responsible for violating the right to life and personal integrity.

The IACHR also found that the rights to legal guarantees and protection had been violated, given the impunity surrounding the entire case. Specifically, the IACHR reached this opinion due to the lack of a motive behind the verdict that found the state agents in question to be innocent, the fact that the verdict could not be appealed, and the lack of involvement of Patricio Roche Azaña in proceedings.

In the Merits Reports, the IACHR concluded that the state of Nicaragua violated the rights to life, personal integrity, and guarantees of legal protection. As a consequence, in the report, the IACHR recommended that both the tangible and intangible human rights violations it had found should be fully remedied. Specifically, the state must take measures to provide economic compensation and redress for Patricio Roche Azaña and his parents. The IACHR also recommended that the criminal investigation into events should be reopened diligently, effectively, and within a reasonable period of time in order to completely clarify events, identify all those who may be responsible for them, and impose the corresponding sanctions for the human rights violations set out in the Merits Report. The IACHR recommended that the state of Nicaragua provide the physical and mental healthcare measures needed to help Patricio Roche Azaña and his parents with the recovery process, should they so wish, and that any such measures should be agreed on with them. Finally, the IACHR recommended that Nicaragua establish non-repetition mechanisms that include training for authorities on the use of force in accordance with inter-American standards, which were described in the Merits Report, and on the human rights of migrants.

The IACHR filed the application with the IA Court on March 24, 2019, as it deemed that Nicaragua had not complied with the recommendations set out in the Merits Report.

This case gives the IA Court an opportunity to develop jurisprudence on the rights of migrants. The court would be able to examine the limits that states impose on the use of lethal force in greater depth, particularly in the context of immigration checkpoints and the inappropriateness of using lethal force to prevent migrants from fleeing. The IA Court would also be able to delve more deeply into the motives for the verdicts behind trials in which a jury reaches a decision and on the ways in which victims should be involved in criminal investigations and proceedings such as this case.

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. 109/19