REPORT Nº 43/01 CASE 11.015 HUGO JUÁREZ CRUZAT ET AL. (MIGUEL CASTRO CASTRO PRISON) PERU March 5, 2001
1. On May 18, 1992,
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter the
“Inter-American Commission,” “Commission” or “IACHR”) received
a communication that Mrs. Sabina Astete lodged against the Republic of
Peru (hereinafter “Peru”, “Peruvian State” or “State”).
The communication alleges that on May 6, 1992, 500 Peruvian Army
troops descended upon Lima’s “Miguel Castro Castro Prison” by air
and overland. Targeting
cellblock “1A” and armed with heavy artillery, their objective was to
transfer the prisoners to the “Santa Mónica” Prison.
But an attack on Miguel Castro Castro Prison ensued, leaving 34
inmates dead and another 18 wounded.
The communication alleges that by these actions, the Peruvian State
violated the rights to life, humane treatment, personal liberty, the
principles of freedom from ex post facto laws and of non-retroactivity, and the right to equal
protection before the law, recognized, respectively, in articles 4, 5, 7,
9 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter the
“American Convention” or “Convention”).
The State did not file an objection claiming failure to exhaust the
remedies under domestic law. The
Commission is therefore deciding to admit the case and proceed with its
analysis of the merits.
PROCESSING WITH THE COMMISSION
The Commission received Mrs. Astete’s communication on May 18,
1992 and within days obtained information about the events from a variety
of sources, including communications sent by inmates. The Commission
opened the case on June 12, 1992, and forwarded the pertinent parts of the
petition to the Peruvian State, requesting that it supply pertinent
information within 90 days.
On August 18, 1992, the IACHR decided to grant precautionary
measures and requested the Government of Peru to send an official list of
the persons who either died or disappeared as of the time of the events at
“Miguel Castro Castro” prison, as well as information on the wounded
and where they were taken.
On September 11, 1992, the State sent detailed information on the
measures taken in connection with the Commission’s request; it sent
additional information on October 26, 1992 and November 9, 1992.
On December 14, 1992, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
granted provisional measures in connection with the situation at the
Peruvian prisons, including the “Castro Castro” penal institution.
On March 22, 1999, Mrs. Astete requested that the Commission make
all information on this case available to attorneys Fiona McKay and Curtis
On April 4, 2000, Mrs. Astete informed the IACHR that Dr. Curtis
Doebbler was no longer representing her in the case.
On June 30, 2000, Mrs. Astete sent the IACHR a list of the alleged
victims of the May 1992 events at Castro Castro Prison
and informed it that the list might be incomplete because the Government
was refusing to supply any further information. Mrs. Astete sent
additional information on October 16, 2000 and on December 4, 2000
submitted her observations on the new petition filed by Dr. Doebbler.
case 11.769-B with case 11.015
On June 5, 1997, the Commission received a petition filed by Dr.
Curtis Doebbler, representing Mrs. Mónica Feria-Tinta.
The petition alleged that she had been arrested, tortured and
imprisoned in the Castro Castro prison.
It also denounced the events that transpired at that prison in May
1992, when Mrs. Feria-Tinta was an inmate there.
The case was opened on July 8, 1997, and the pertinent parts of the
petition were forwarded to the State, which was given 90 days in which to
submit information on the case. The
State has never responded to that request.
On November 20, 1997, Dr. Fiona McKay submitted to the Commission a
power of attorney wherein Mrs. Mónica Feria-Tinta names her as her
representative in the instant case.
On March 31, 2000, Mrs. Feria-Tinta informed the Commission that
she was revoking the power of attorney that she had given to Dr. Curtis
Doebbler. She also stated
that henceforth, her sole representative would be Dr. Fiona McKay.
On June 29, 2000, in accordance with Article 40(1) of its
Regulations, the Commission decided to divide case 11.769 into two new
cases, identified as case 11.769-A and case 11.769-B.
It also decided that thereafter, the petition that originated case
11.769, on the detention, trial and other allegations that directly and
personally concerned attorney Mónica Feria-Tinta, would be case 11.769-A.
The Commission also agreed that thereafter, the other allegations made in
the petition that led to case 11.769, i.e., those that concerned the
events that transpired at Castro-Castro prison in May 1992, would be
addressed in case 11.769-B.
At the same time, the Commission also decided to combine case
11.769-B with case 11.015, and to continue to process both as case 11.015,
pursuant to Article 40(2) of the Commission’s Regulations.
The parties were duly notified of the Commission’s decision.
POSITION OF THE PARTIES
A. Position of the
petitioners (Sabina Astete and Mónica Feria-Tinta)
The petitioners allege that at 4:30 a.m. on May 6, 1992, some 500
Army troops stormed cellblock “1A” of Miguel Castro Castro prison, by
air and overland, carrying heavy weaponry like rifles, anti-tank weapons,
grenades, dynamite and plastic explosives.
Their plan was to move prisoners to the Santa Mónica prison.
The petitioners contend that the operation amounted to an attack
upon the prisoners, carried out in the predawn hours with no prior
warning. Its opening move was
demolition of the cellblock “1A”.
The petitioners further allege that the attack on the prison went
on throughout May 7, 8 and 9, 1992. They
reported that because the prisoners had put up resistance and had moved to
cellblock “4B”, the government ordered deployment of 1000 troops–a
combination of Army and special police units-to launch a final assault on
The petitioners state that the government rejected the inmates’
call for formation of a committee composed of representatives of the
International Red Cross and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict. They point out that the
prisoners made every effort to resolve the situation differently and even
went so far as to sign a document with Attorney General Mirtha Campos,
where the main point was the Red Cross’ presence as a minimal
requirement to guarantee the lives of the prisoners at the time of
surrender. They added that in
the end, the petitioners revolted when they realized that the real
objective of the Army and police troops was to kill everyone.
The petitioners state that the confrontation continued until May 9,
1992, when the Army troops began to selectively execute prisoners, despite
the fact that they had surrendered and were leaving the facility to be
transferred to another facility.
They add that at 1:00 p.m. on May 22, 1992, 500 Army troopers,
wearing hoods and heavily armed, again entered “Castro Castro” prison
to move 300 prisoners from one area known as “no-man’s land” to the
demolished cellblock “1A”. During
this maneuver, the troops mistreated and beat the prisoners, exacerbating
the condition of the wounded who were there.
The petitioners state that the prisoners were held incommunicado,
some without clothing or shoes. There
were few mattresses and blankets, little food and no proper medical
The petitioners point out that the operation that the Army and
government police forces conducted against the Castro Castro prison left
34 prisoners dead and 18 wounded. They
maintain that those immediately to blame for the events were the Prison
Warden, Colonel Cajahuanca, the Assistant Warden, Commander Pinto, and
Commander Guzmán. These
three had a plan to isolate and annihilate the inmates.
The petitioners allege that the treatment of inmates at “Miguel
Castro Castro” prison was inhumane, given the scarcity of food, the lack
of heating in the cells, the lack of medical care for sick prisoners, the
absolute ban on visits–both by family members and prisoners’
attorneys-, the harassment, abuse and brutality of the guards charged with
the custody of the prisoners and the safety of prisons.
They argue that the petition was submitted before the proceedings
in the domestic courts had closed because of the urgency of the situation
and to avoid further and possibly irreparable harm to the inmates at
Miguel Casto Castro prison.
B. The State’s
The State alleges that the decision to transfer inmates prosecuted
for terrorism from the Miguel Castro Castro facility to a similar facility
called “Santa Mónica” prison, was because of the need to gradually
reduce overcrowding and promiscuity between male and female inmates.
It adds that the operation was planned by the Peruvian National
Police, to transfer female inmates incarcerated at “Miguel Castro
Castro” prison to the “Santa Monica” women’s prison, and to house
them in facilities especially equipped to handle them.
It points out that the representative from the Attorney General’s
Office, Mrs. Mirtha Campos Salas, and assistant government attorneys were
present at the “Castro Castro” prison from May 6 to May 11, 1992, as
required under domestic law and at the request of the head of Legal
Support and the Peruvian National Police.
The State mentions that the intervention of the representative of
the Attorney General’s Office was in response to the pressing need to
monitor for and ensure respect for the law so as to defend the legal
system, protect the lives and physical safety of the male and female
inmates and, above all, to respect the human rights of those inmates.
The State disputes the petitioner’s version of the facts and
contends that the operation was conducted by National Police troops, since
the Army troops, numbering 100 men, were in charge of guarding the outside
perimeter of the prison and remained in waiting.
The State contends that the Army troops never directly intervened
in the incursion.
The State alleges that the operation was not planned as an assault
on the prison. Instead,
before police intervened, the government attorney in charge and national
police officials attempted to persuade and convince the inmates to make
the move. It goes on to state
that whereas the male inmates who were members of the “Shining Path”
rejected these overtures, a number of female inmates came out and were
taken voluntarily and peaceably to the “Santa Monica” prison, after
being given a medical check-up.
The State alleges that in a document dated May 8, 1992, an appeal
was made to the rioting inmates to give up.
According to the State, the inmates initially agreed to be
transferred to other prisons. It alleges that the terms of the transfer
were even worked out, especially immediate treatment of the wounded.
It adds, however, that the rioting inmates did not honor the terms
of the agreement and refused to exit the cellblocks peacefully.
The State also refutes the petitioner’s allegation that it
refused the intervention of the International Red Cross requested by the
inmates. The State maintains
that the document shows that representatives of the International Red
Cross were present. It adds that at no time did the representatives of the
Attorney General’s Office obstruct or object to the presence and
intervention of the representatives of the International Red Cross and
that the inmates used that false argument to justify their failure to
honor the terms of the document in question.
The State contends that Army troops did not selectively and
summarily execute the prisoners as they were leaving the prison, since the
Army troops did not have a direct hand in the operation against cellblock
“1A” or “4B”; instead, they confined their activities to security
outside the prison.
The State argues that the events occurred because of a
confrontation initially instigated by the inmates, when they rioted and
forcibly obstructed the transfer of female inmates prosecuted for
terrorism to the Santa Mónica prison. It adds that in response to the surprise attack launched by
the rioting prisoners, who were armed with “quesos rusos” [a
package containing the contents of several dynamite charges, combined with
nails and pieces of metal used for shrapnel to inflict greater damage;
these contents are then wrapped in paper or plastic, and a fuse and
detonator attached], firearms, and muriatic acid, the police forces directly
handling the operation repelled the attack.
It points out that prior to the police’s successful actions to
take back the cellblocks that the inmates had taken over, the latter were
urged to exit peacefully and to agree to the transfer.
However, the rioting inmates rejected the appeal and responded by
firing shots from inside cellblock “4B”.
The police were forced to return fire, which is how some of the
As for the allegations concerning the transfer that occurred on May
22, 1992, the State reiterates that the Peruvian Army did not directly
participate in the operation; that there was absolutely no contact between
the Army troops and the rioting inmates, and that the Army’s role was to
serve as an escort for the operation.
Concerning the assertions of inhuman conditions in Peruvian
prisons, the State points out that Attorney General Mirtha Campos made
surprise, personal visits to the Santa Mónica, Yanamayo-Puno, San Sebastián
and Cristo Rey prisons to inspect the real situation of the inmates at
The State attached information to the effect that following the
events at the “Castro Castro” prison, the attorneys and families of
the inmates prosecuted for terrorism and housed at that prison filed a
petition of habeas corpus with a
judge in Lima, against the prison warden and other officials.
The petition alleged, inter
alia, the abduction, incommunicado incarceration, and harm done to the
inmates by being denied sufficient food and medical care.
The judge ordered that a summary inquiry be conducted to
investigate the conduct of the State agents in the events to which the
appeal referred. Later,
however, on July 21, 1992, the judge declared the petition inadmissible.
The IACHR will now deliver a preliminary decision concerning the
representation claimed by Dr. Curtis Doebbler and the new petition filed. It will then examine the requirements for the petition’s
admissibility, as set forth in the American Convention.
Preliminary issue: The new petition filed by Dr. Curtis Doebbler
As stated previously, on March 22, 1999, the petitioner sent a
letter requesting that the Commission make all information concerning the
case available to attorneys Fiona McKay and Curtis Doebbler.
Later, on April 4, 2000, the petitioner sent the Commission an
affidavit stating that she had revoked Dr. Curtis Doebbler’s power of
attorney to serve as her legal representative in the case.
By a communication dated July 6, 2000, Dr. Doebbler filed a new
petition concerning the events that occurred at the Castro Castro prison,
May 6 through 10, 1992 attaching a list of 610 inmates killed, wounded and
those who had survived. Dr.
Doebbler also presented a power of attorney from Mrs. Nila Cipriana
Pacheco Neira, mother of victim Elvia Nila Zanabria, authorizing him to
represent her in her daughter’s case, who died at Castro Castro prison.
On January 26, 2001, Dr. Doebbler confirmed his interest in
continuing to represent other alleged victims in this matter and submitted
powers of attorney from Madelleine
Valle Rivera and Mercedes Rios Vera, two inmates who survived and who are
named in the petition filed by Dr. Doebbler on July 6, 2000.
The Commission has the obligation to order proceedings on
contentious cases and to ensure that they are treated seriously, that the
various stages of the proceedings are carried out, and that both parties
produce evidence. In that
sense, the IACHR enjoys broad authority to combine petitions that deal
with the same facts and to separate petitions to better safeguard the
interests involved (Article 40 of the Commission’s Regulations).
The Commission therefore decides that the new petition filed by Dr.
Curtis Doebbler on July 6, 2000, and the powers of attorney and other
attachments presented in connection with that complaint, are to be
separated from case file 11.015. It
is instructing the Secretariat of the Commission to process the new
petition in accordance with the provisions of Article 30 and other
relevant articles of the Commission’s Regulations.
When that initial processing is completed, the Commission will make
its decision on that petition.
Competence of the Commission ratione
materiae, ratione personae, ratione loci and
The petitioner in the instant case is authorized under Article 44
of the American Convention to file a petition with the IACHR.
The petition names individual persons as the alleged victims, whose
Convention-recognized rights Peru undertook to respect and ensure. The
Commission notes that Peru is a State party to the American Convention,
having ratified it on July 28, 1978.
The facts alleged occurred within Peruvian territory. Hence, the
Commission is competent, ratione
personae and ratione loci,
to examine the petition.
The Commission is also competent ratione
materiae inasmuch as the facts alleged in the petition could
constitute violations of rights protected by the American Convention.
The IACHR is competent ratione
temporis because the facts alleged occurred in May 1992, when the
obligation to respect and guarantee the rights recognized in the American
Convention was already binding upon the Peruvian State.
requirements of the petition
1. Exhaustion of
Under Article 46(1)(a) of the Convention, for the Commission to be
able to admit a petition, the remedies under domestic law must have been
pursued and exhausted in accordance with generally recognized principles
of international law.
The Commission observes that, according to the information
available in the case file, in the wake of events at the “Castro
Castro” prison, the attorneys and families of the inmates housed at that
facility for the crime of terrorism filed a petition of habeas
corpus with the Lima examining magistrate, against the prison warden
and other authorities because of the restrictions placed on visits by the
inmates’ attorneys and family members. The judge ordered a summary
inquiry to investigate the conduct of the State agents in the events that
are the subject of the petition. However,
on July 21, 1992, the judge declared the petition inadmissible.
The State, for its part, has not filed any objection asserting the
rule requiring exhaustion of local remedies. The Inter-American Court has
pointed out that “the objection asserting the non-exhaustion of domestic
remedies, to be timely, must be made at an early stage of the proceedings
by the State entitled to make it, lest a waiver of the requirement be
For these reasons, the Commission concludes that the requirement
concerning exhaustion of domestic remedies has been satisfied.
2. Deadline for
filing the petition
Article 46 of the Convention states that for the Commission to
admit a petition or communication presented in accordance with articles 44
or 45 of the Convention, it must be “lodged within a period of six
months from the date on which the party alleging violation of his rights
was notified of the final judgment.”
The Commission notes that the petition filed in case 11.015 was
lodged on an emergency basis, before the domestic remedies had been
exhausted. That, however,
does not preclude its admissibility at the current stage of the case,
since the requirements for a petition’s admissibility must be examined,
as a rule, as of the time the Commission rules on the question of
The Commission further observes that the State did not make any argument
regarding the six-month time period for filing petitions.
The requirement set forth in Article 46(1)(b) of the American
Convention is, therefore, met.
3. Duplication of
It is the Commission’s understanding that the subject of the
petition is not pending in another international proceeding for settlement
and is not substantially the same as one previously studied by the
Commission or by another international organization. Therefore, and
notwithstanding paragraph 46 above, the requirements stipulated in
articles 46(1)(c) and 47(d) are met.
of the facts
The Commission considers that the facts alleged, if proven, could
constitute violations of rights recognized in the American Convention on
The Commission concludes, therefore, that under articles 46 and 47
of the American Convention, it is competent to take up this case.
For these reasons of fact and of law,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To admit the present case, which is a combination of case 11.015
and case 11.769-B and concerns alleged violations of articles 4, 5, 7, 9,
24 and 1(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
This shall not imply any prejudgment as to the merits of the case.
To notify the parties of this decision.
To proceed with the analysis of the merits of the case.
To publish this decision and include it in the IACHR’s Annual
Report to the OAS General Assembly.
Given and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the city of Washington, D.C., on the fifth day of March of the year 2001. (Signed) Claudio Grossman, Chairman; Juan Méndez, First Vice Chairman; Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice Chair, and Commission members Hélio Bicudo, Robert K. Goldman, Julio Prado Vallejo and Peter Laurie.
The IACHR was asked to intervene as the events were
in progress, and even sent a special mission to Peru. See IACHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru,
1993, paragraphs 94 to 97.
By letter dated April 10, 2000,
Dr. Doebbler informed the Commission that he was still interested in
representing the alleged victims in the instant case.
On June 28, 2000, the Commission sent Dr. Doebbler a letter
informing him that it would have to defer to Mrs. Astete’s wishes in
regard to Dr. Doebbler’s representation of her in the case, and
would therefore be terminating any representation he might have had in
On June 29, 2000, the Commission sent a letter to Dr. Curtis Doebbler
to the following effect: “On
September 28, 1996, Mrs. Mónica Feria-Tinta gave you power of
attorney to represent her. In
that capacity, you filed a petition with the Commission dated June 5,
1997. In that petition,
you stated that the petitioner in the case was Mrs. Mónica
Feria-Tinta and you signed the petition as her legal representative.
You further stated that you were acting as her representative by
virtue of that power of attorney.
Although in the original petition you stated that you were
representing other victims as well, the petitioner in this case is
Mrs. Feria-Tinta, and throughout the process you have repeatedly
stated that you are serving as her legal representative.
Given these facts and as required under Article 44 of the
American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission has, since the
start of the proceedings on this case, recognized Mrs.
Feria-Tinta as the petitioner, wherein the alleged victims are Mrs.
Feria-Tinta and the other persons named in the original petition. For
these reasons, given the situation, the Inter-American Commission must
defer to the petitioner’s wishes that the power of attorney she gave
you to represent her in the case in question be revoked and your
representation thereby terminated.
All this without prejudice to the other alleged victims’
right to designate you as their representative vis-à-vis the
By a letter dated April 10, 2000,
Dr. Doebbler told the Commission that he was still interested in
representing the alleged victims in the case in question.
On June 28, 2000, the Commission sent Dr. Doebbler a letter
explaining to him that the original petition was presented by Mrs.
Astete in 1992 and that on March 22, 1999, she had authorized the
Commission to make all case-related information available to Dr.
Doebbler. However, there
was no letter or statement from Mrs. Astete on record wherein he is
named as her representative in the case.
The Commission also informed Dr. Doebbler that with the
situation as it was, it was deferring to the petitioner’s wishes
that any power of attorney she may have given to Dr. Doebbler be
revoked, and was therefore terminating any such representation. All
this notwithstanding the right of other alleged victims to designate
Dr. Doebbler as their representative vis-à-vis the Commission.
Velásquez Rodríguez Case, Preliminary
Objections, Judgment of June 21, 1987, Series C, No. 1, par. 88; Fairén
Garbi and Solis Corrales case, Preliminary Objections, judgment of
June 26, 1987, Series C, No. 2, par. 87; Gangaram
Preliminary Objections, judgment of December 4, 1991, Series C, No.
12, par. 38; Loayza Tamayo Case,
Preliminary Objections, judgment of January 31, 1996, Series C, No.
25, par. 40.
IACHR, Report 52/00, Dismissed Congressional Employees, Cases 11.830
and 12.038, (Peru), par. 19.