Press Release

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

21 november, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on August 7, 2019 an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court H.R.) in Case 12,950, Rufino Jorge Almeida, with regard to Argentina.

This case refers to the failure to grant compensation to Mr. Rufino Jorge Almeida for the time in which he was held in a regime similar to a probation (libertad vigilada de facto) during the civic–military dictatorship. Mr. Almeida was kidnapped on June 5, 1978 by members of the Armed Forces and was illegally detained for 54 days at the illegal detention center known as El Banco, where he was subjected to torture. Following his release, he was de facto on probation until April 30, 1983.

In 1995, Mr. Almeida filed an administrative complaint about these events, in accordance with Act No. 24,043, which granted certain benefits to individuals who had been held by the national executive or detained based on the actions of military courts during the dictatorship. The Interior Ministry recognized his right to compensation for 54 days in illegal detention, but not for the period where he was de facto on probation, since the latter was not mentioned in the act. Mr. Almeida’s appeal and the extraordinary legal remedy he further sought were both rejected. Following a change in jurisprudence, where the courts started to grant compensation in cases involving de facto probations, Mr. Almeida requested in 2006 a repeal of the initial resolution. This request was rejected, since his specific situation was not included in the law. Later, Mr. Almeida’s wife, who was detained with him and was handed an identical de facto probation, and who had also received compensation for 54 days in illegal detention, was granted benefits in accordance with Act No. 24,043 for the time she served her de facto probation.

The IACHR found that the exclusion of certain kinds of cases from the provisos of Act No. 24,043 does not in itself entail a violation of the right to equality before the law, as long as this exclusion is objectively and reasonably justified, and as long as it is proportionate to the aims it seeks. Given the State’s failure to explain the objective, reasonable nature of exclusion in this case, the Commission concluded that this exclusion entails a violation of the right to equality before the law. The IACHR stressed that this analysis takes into consideration the acknowledgement by Argentina’s executive and judicial authorities of the deficient wording in Act 24,043, which fails to adequately protect the right to compensation of individuals are entitled to equal treatment. For this reason, the IACHR further considered that the State was responsible for a violation of Article 2 of the American Convention, concerning the exclusion of de facto probation from the scope of Act 24,043. This exclusion was later fixed through judicial interpretation of this act. Finally, the Commission concluded that Mr. Almeida did not have access to an effective remedy, with due process, concerning the alleged violation of his right to equality before the law, in the context of his initial administrative proceedings and his judicial appeals.

In its Merits Report, the Commission concluded that the State was liable for violations of the rights to adequate substantiation, equality before the law, and judicial protection.

The Commission recommended that the State offer the victim a suitable, effective, and expeditious mechanism, so his request for compensation can be reconsidered. This mechanism must take into consideration the victim’s arguments concerning the violation of his right to equality before the law. When it reconsiders this case, the Argentine State must observe its international obligations regarding equality before the law. The State cannot abstractly argue that this involves res judicata, and it must allow the victim to put forward all the information he deems necessary to establish his demand for redress under Act 24,043. The IACHR further demanded full reparations for violations mentioned in the Merits Report, taking into consideration both the material and immaterial damage done by the denial of justice suffered by Mr. Rufino Jorge Almeida, based on his right to equality before the law.

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. 303/19