Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report No. 109/19 on Case 11,144—Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo, Colombia

August 21, 2019

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Washington D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has decided to approve the friendly settlement agreement concerning Case 11,144, Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo, signed on December 5, 2016, during the Commission’s 159th Period of Sessions in Panama City. The agreement was signed by the head of the Legal Department at Colombia’s National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State and by the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (the petitioning party, representing the victims). At the same time, the Commission announces its decision to include this case in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the OAS, and to continue to monitor its implementation until it is complete, in keeping with the assessment included in the approval report.

On April 7, 1993, the IACHR received a petition submitted by Corporación Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”, alleging that the Republic of Colombia bore international responsibility for the forced disappearance of Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo on November 20, 1992 in the city of Sincelejo, in the department of Sucre, and for the lack of due diligence of judicial authorities in charge of investigating those events and punishing the people responsible for them.

On May 6, 2015, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding to start working toward a friendly settlement, during a visit that Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco made to Colombia. The relevant agreement was signed by the parties in Panama City on December 5, 2016.

In this friendly settlement agreement, the State agreed to take the following measures:

  1. Develop a plan to search for the victim’s remains;
  2. Request a review of the legal decisions that led to the preclusion on the investigation into these events and to the acquittal of one suspect;
  3. Hold an event to publicly acknowledge responsibility;
  4. Unveil two plaques in memory of the victim, in agreement with his family;
  5. Dedicate a remembrance site featuring the victim’s photograph and story;
  6. Take educational measures to prevent these events from happening again in the future;
  7. Grant financial aid to support the education of the victim’s siblings;
  8. Adopt measures to support health recovery for the victim’s relatives;
  9. Grant financial compensation, in accordance with Law 288 of 1996.

In its friendly settlement report on this case, the Commission highlighted the fact that there has been substantial compliance with this agreement. On April 9, 2019—the victim’s birthday—the Colombian State acknowledged its international responsibility for the events of November 20, 1992, the day young Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo disappeared, and the lack of due diligence of legal authorities to investigate those events, punish the people responsible for them, and establish the victim’s whereabouts. The IACHR therefore considered that full compliance had been attained in connection with this aspect of the friendly settlement agreement.

Also on April 9, 2019, the Colombian State unveiled two memorial plaques in Santander Park, in the city of Sincelejo, Sucre. During that event, which was jointly designed by both parties, there was an instance of religious reflection, two banners were shown with the picture of Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo, and the Justice Minister handed a burning candle to Adolfo González, a member of the victim’s family, symbolizing the Colombian State’s commitment to keep searching for truth, justice and reparation in this case.

Concerning student aid, the Commission declared—as requested by the parties—that this measure had been fully complied with. Since the second semester of 2017, the beneficiaries had been receiving the agreed grants, and they are currently on their fifth semester of study.

Concerning health restoration measures, the IACHR verified that eight beneficiaries had been insured with the General Social Security System for Healthcare, and that they had been provided comprehensive healthcare services including the following: i) access to services without discrimination; ii) access to facilities and services within beneficiaries’ geographical reach; iii) access to information concerning healthcare services; and iv) affordable access to healthcare services without hurdles or unjustified charges. The Commission therefore declared that full compliance with this aspect of the friendly settlement agreement had been attained.

The Commission also observed progress concerning justice, since the Colombian State conducted DNA tests to search for the remains of Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo and compared them with two genetic profiles linked to the case. While the results were negative, there was evidence that a work plan was being implemented, and new sample comparisons were scheduled to be conducted soon. Other activities were also being carried out that the Commission considers important to establish Gerson Jairzinho González Arroyo’s whereabouts.

In its assessment, the IACHR noted that there had been full compliance with five out of the nine measures established in the friendly settlement agreement, concerning satisfaction and rehabilitation. The IACHR further declared that there had been partial compliance with one of the clauses linked to truth and justice. The Commission will continue to supervise the four measures that are still being implemented—two measures concerning justice, one linked to historical memory of the victim through education, and one financial compensation measure—until full compliance is attained.

The Inter-American Commission closely followed the implementation of the friendly settlement that was agreed in this case and highly commends both parties for their efforts while negotiating the friendly settlement, which is compatible with the Convention’s aims and purposes. In this context, the Commission congratulates both parties for their disposition and willingness to work toward solving this issue outside of the litigation proceeding. The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of all pending measures until full compliance is attained. Finally, the Commission commends the Colombian State for its efforts to build a public policy concerning friendly settlements and alternative conflict-resolution.

Friendly settlement report no. 109/19, concerning Case 11,144, is available here.

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. 207/19