Press Release

IACHR Brings Venezuela Case before the IA Court

November 22, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - DC—On May 24, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 12.805—Jimmy Guerrero, Ramón Molina, and their family—concerning Venezuela. The case relates to the extrajudicial executions of Jimmy Guerrero and his uncle, Ramón Molina, by officials of the Armed Police Forces of the state of Falcón, in Venezuela, on March 29, 2003.

The IACHR noted that there were two versions of events. According to the state, the victims were killed by third parties as part of a settling of accounts in connection to their alleged involvement in criminal acts. Conversely, according to witnesses and the victims’ family, Jimmy Guerrero’s death was an extrajudicial execution perpetrated by state security agents.

The IACHR found that there had been a pattern of extrajudicial executions of young men from low-income backgrounds and poor neighborhoods in the state of Falcón at the time of the events described in this case. These executions were carried out using a specific modus operandi that has already been identified by the IACHR and the IA Court. Furthermore, given the threats, aggression, and police detention experienced by Jimmy Guerrero, the fact that measures of protection had been requested by the Ombudsman’s Office, the context of police violence in Falcón, and the indications that state agents were involved in the murder due to the modus operandi of the executions, the IACHR has attributed the death of Jimmy Guerrero to the state of Venezuela, along with the collateral death of his uncle, Ramón Molina. Furthermore, the IACHR deemed that in both cases, the victims’ rights to integrity was violated due to the extreme fear that they experienced before being killed. Finally, in the case of Jimmy Guerrero, given the signs of savage violence found on his body and the fact that he was dragged behind a vehicle over a paved surface before being abandoned in a nearby location, the IACHR concluded that the state had violated its obligation to investigate whether acts of torture had taken place.

The IACHR also found that there had been violations of judicial guarantees and protection during the investigation into the deaths of Jimmy Guerrero and Ramón Molina and the subsequent criminal proceedings. The IACHR found that the state of Venezuela failed to fulfill its obligations to investigate the deaths in question with due diligence. Among other factors, this was due to the investigation neglecting to explore the possible involvement of state agents in the victims’ deaths despite the complaints and reports that were filed; the concealment and destruction of evidence (weapon storage and incident report books, among other things) which was requested over the years by the district attorney’s offices responsible for the investigation and carried out by police agents; the rejection of testimonies that linked police agents to events; the lack of management and procedural handling of the case; the unreasonable length of time that the investigation took; and the fact that the context of police violence in Falcón was not taken into account.

Finally, the IACHR deemed that the psychological and moral integrity of the family was damaged by the pain and suffering inherent to the circumstances in which the two victims lost their lives, and by the lack of response to the legal actions they have taken, particularly due to the fact that they were reportedly also the object of threats and harassment due to the initiatives they have taken regarding the case.

In its merits reports, the IACHR made the following recommendations:

1. Provide comprehensive material and moral redress for the human rights violations set out in the report. The state must take measures to provide economic compensation and redress for moral damages, and rehabilitation for those family members who desire this.

2. Continue the criminal investigation into events 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 report. To comply with this requirement, the state of Venezuelan should include in its investigation aspects that relate to the historical context in the terms set out in the IACHR report and should take all possible steps to remedy the shortcomings that have been observed throughout the investigation.

3. Implement the appropriate administrative, disciplinary, or criminal measures in response to the actions or omissions of those state officials who played a part in denying justice and enabling those responsible for the events in this case to go unpunished.

4. Provide for nonrepetition mechanisms that include: i) general training programs on international human rights standards and specific programs targeting the police in the state of Falcón and the justice sector; ii) measures to guarantee accountability in criminal, disciplinary, or administrative legal proceedings in cases of alleged abuse of power by state agents responsible for public security; and iii) legislative, administrative, and other types of measures to ensure that cases of alleged extrajudicial executions are investigated with due diligence and in accordance with the relevant international standards.

5. Reimburse expenses outlaid by the IACHR’s Legal Assistance Fund for Victims.

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. 308/19