By petition submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights (hereinafter “the Commission”) by the non-governmental
organization Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) on May 11,
1992, and also signed by Messrs. Hipólito López González and Alejandro
Castillo Vega, it was alleged that the Republic of Peru (hereinafter
“Peru,” “the State,” or “the Peruvian State”) violated the
human rights of Messrs. Pedro Pablo López González, Denis Atilio
Castillo Chávez, Gilmer Ramiro León Velásquez, Jesús Manfredo Noriega
Ríos, Roberto Barrientos Velásquez, Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez,
Carlos Martín Tarazona More, and Jorge Luis Tarazona More, when they were
detained on May 2, 1992, by members of the Police and Navy of Peru, and
then disappeared. The State
alleges that Messrs. López González, Castillo Chávez, León Velásquez,
Noriega Ríos, Barrientos Velásquez, and Tarazona More were not detained
by police or military forces. The
Commission concludes that Peru violated Articles 7, 5, 4, 3, and 25 of the
Convention, in conjunction with the provisions of Article 1(1), to the
detriment of the above-mentioned persons, and makes the pertinent
recommendations to the Peruvian State.
PROCESSING BEFORE THE COMMISSION
On July 6, 1992, the Commission opened the case, forwarded the
pertinent parts of the complaint to the Peruvian State, and asked that it
provide information within 90 days. The
State answered on September 21, 1992.
The petitioners submitted observations to the State’s response on
January 25, 1993. Both
parties submitted additional information on several occasions.
On May 26, 1999, both parties were asked to provide the Commission
with updated information on the case, and the Commission made itself
available to them to try to reach a friendly settlement.
On July 26, 1999, the State indicated, among other considerations,
that it did not consider it advisable to begin to pursue a friendly
settlement. Accordingly, the
Commission considered that the possibility of friendly settlement had been
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
Petitioners note that on May 2, 1992, at approximately 1:30 a.m.,
members of the National Police and Navy of Peru entered the human
settlements of “La Huaca,” “Javier Heraud,” and “San
Carlos,” located in the district and province of Santa, department
of Ancash. Petitioners
further state that those persons, who were traveling in four pick-up
trucks without tags, were wearing black sweaters, olive green pants, and
boots, and were armed with machine guns.
Petitioner adds that those persons searched the homes of several
Petitioners indicate that those armed individuals violently entered
the home of Mr. Pedro Pablo López González, who was domiciled in the
human settlement of La Huaca, and forced him and his wife to lie
down on the floor. They add that immediately thereafter Mr. López González was
bound and removed from his home, barefoot and in his undergarments.
Petitioners state that Mr. Denis Atilio Castillo Chávez was at his
home, also located at the human settlement of La Huaca.
They note that the persons in question entered the home of Mr.
Castillo Chávez and beat his sister, a mentally retarded 13-year-old
girl. They also state that
Mr. Castillo Chávez came forth to defend his sister, and at that moment
was detained by those persons and removed from his home.
They further indicate that Mr. Gilmer Ramiro León Velásquez was
detained at the human settlement of La Huaca when he was returning
to his home on bicycle; he was thrown to the ground, beaten, and placed on
one of the pick-up trucks.
Petitioners argue that the armed men violently entered the home of
Mr. Jesús Manfredo Noriega Ríos, located in the human settlement known
as “Javier Heraud,” and kept his wife and children from leaving
their rooms or turning on the lights.
The armed men then painted slogans on the front of the house that
read, for example, “Long live the armed struggle” and “PCP,” and
then left, taking Mr. Noriega Ríos with them.
The petition alleges that the armed men entered the domicile of
brothers Roberto and Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez, located in the
human settlement known as “San Carlos,” and threw them to the
ground along with their mother and sister. After searching the house and
inquiring about another brother, Edwin Barrientos Velásquez, they left,
taking with them brothers Roberto and Carlos Alberto.
Before leaving, they painted slogans on the front of the house that
said “Long live the armed struggle” and “PCP,” among other things.
The petition notes that approximately 15 of the armed individuals
violently entered the home of brothers Carlos Martín and Jorge Luis
Tarazona More, also located in the “San Carlos” human
settlement, and proceeded to take them away, in the presence of their
families. Previously, the
armed individuals took their money, documents, and other goods, and
painted the front of the house in a manner similar to that described in
the previous paragraph.
Petitioners state that relatives of the victims who went to the
city of Chimbote saw personnel from the Peruvian Navy at the tunnel known
as “Coishco” who were keeping watch there, apparently to offer
protection for the exit of the armed individuals who carried out the
They indicate that both the National Police and the Peruvian Navy
denied having detained the individuals in question, and that even though
they went before the Office of the Attorney General and authorities of the
Judiciary, such efforts offered no results with respect to the whereabouts
of those persons. Petitioner
attaches the testimony of the following eyewitnesses:
Mrs. Maximina González Méndez, Mrs. Paula Peregrina Flores de
Dionicio, Mrs. Cruz Velásquez León de Barrientos, Mrs. Hormecinda Velásquez
viuda de León, Mrs. Agustina Moreno Estrada, Mrs. Margot Nancy Reyes Sáenz,
Mr. Alejandro Castillo Vega, and Mr. Germán Domingo Quispe Moreno.
Petitioners note that in a complaint lodged with the Office of the
Attorney General the family members of the persons detained stated that
Peruvian National Police Major Percy del Carpio and police agent Juan
Molina Castro were aware of the existence of a list of persons, among them
the victims, who were going to be kidnapped.
They add that the National Police refused to receive the complaint
on the facts described.
The petition indicates that as a result of the complaints lodged,
some of the family members of the persons disappeared were accused by the
National Police in Chimbote of being involved in terrorist activities,
including Maribel and Edwin Barrientos Velásquez, siblings of Roberto and
Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez; and Nancy Margot Reyes Sáenz, the
wife of Carlos Tarazona More.
On November 12, 1998, the petitioner stated that on August 31,
1995, the Office of the Fourth Mixed Provincial Prosecutor of Lima
determined to archive definitively the investigation it was carrying out
with respect to the facts alleged, based on the amnesty laws, numbers
26.479 and 26.492. In that
resolution, which the petitioner alleged was confirmed on November 7,
1995, by the Superior Prosecutor, the above-noted prosecutorial office
based on the evidence collected it has been determined that the alleged
perpetrators of said criminal act are likely members of the armed forces
and National Police of Peru.... The
Congress has promulgated Law 26,479, which grants amnesty to the members
of the Military and Police ... who have committed acts such as those
alleged in this case ... accordingly, it is counterproductive to continue
The State answered on September 21, 1992, and alleged that
according to the information in the hands of the National Police of Peru,
the National Police had no responsibility in the detentions of the persons
referred to in this case.
On August 5, 1993, the State informed the Commission that the
Ministry of Interior reported the following:
this respect, it is reported that the family members of the aggrieved were
given notice to ratify their complaint against the authorities who,
according to them, are responsible for the facts.
In addition, it is communicated that to date it has not been
possible to determine the whereabouts of the citizens supposedly detained
and disappeared on May 2 of last year in the early morning hours in the
district of Santa, department of Ancash; nor has it been possible to
identify the perpetrators. It
is important to note that in addition to the pertinent steps of the
investigation, complementary steps have been taken by the authorities of
the police headquarters and the office of the deputy prefect, with the
presence of the chief of the office of human rights, Mr. César Velezmoro,
to be able to compile new evidence so as to make it possible to clarify
the facts fully.
On October 28, 1993, Peru attached a copy of Judgment No. 64-92
from the First Investigative Court of Santa, Chimbote, which declared
unfounded the writ of habeas corpus
filed in relation to the disappearances in this case against the Chief of
the Fourth Sub-region of Chimbote of the National Police, Col. Carlos
Edwin Zapata Santín, and against the commander of the Chimbote Naval
Base, Frigate Capt. Mario Salmón Villarán.
On September 11, 1995, the State moved to archive the case, and
alleged, in so doing, that the petitioner had not taken any steps in the
case since 1993.
19. On January 11, 1999, the State moved to have the complaint declared inadmissible, based on the argument that domestic remedies had not been exhausted as of the time when the complaint was presented. This argument was ratified by the State on July 26, 1999, when it also set forth several considerations on the phenomenon of disappearances in Peru.
Considerations on Admissibility
The Commission now analyzes the admissibility requirements of a
petition established in the American Convention.
Subject-matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and
jurisdiction based on time and place of the events
The allegations in this case describe facts that would be violative
of several rights recognized and enshrined in the American Convention that
took place within the territorial jurisdiction of Peru when the obligation
to respect and guarantee the rights established therein were in force for
Therefore, the IACHR has subject-matter jurisdiction, personal
jurisdiction, and jurisdiction based on when and where the alleged
violations took place, so as to be able to take cognizance of the merits
in the case.
of domestic remedies
The fact that the first stages of the process, i.e., within the
first 90 days that it was given to provide information about the facts
alleged, the State did not present any objection on grounds of failure to
exhaust domestic remedies, will be sufficient for the Commission to
consider the requirement established at Article 46(1)(a) of the Convention
to have been met.
The Commission recently decided, together, a group of 35 cases that
involved 67 persons disappeared in various departments of Peru during the
period from 1989 to 1993, and analyzed in detail the general phenomenon of
disappearances in Peru. In
those reports the Commission notes that habeas corpus was the adequate
remedy in cases of disappearance for trying to find a person presumably
detained by the authorities, to inquire into the legality of the
detention, and, if possible, to secure his or her release.
The IACHR also concluded that for the purposes of admissibility of
complaints before this body, it was not necessary to file a habeas corpus
remedy--or any other--for the purpose of exhausting domestic remedies,
since from 1989 to 1993 there was a practice or policy of disappearances
ordered or tolerated by various public authorities that rendered the
habeas corpus remedy totally ineffective in cases of disappearance.
In those reports the Commission found as follows:
stated earlier, the relatives of the victims applied on numerous occasions
to various judicial, executive (military), and legislative authorities to
locate the victims and secure their release. These efforts usually
included writs of habeas corpus; complaints to the Attorney General, the
Chief Prosecutor in San Martín, the Special Attorney for Human Rights in
San Martín, the Office of the Special Ombudsman, and the Offices of the
Provincial Prosecutors; and appeals to the Ministry of Defense, the Army
High Command, the Office of the Inspector General of the Army, the
Political-Military Commander in Chief, and the commanding officers at the
military bases concerned. Despite all these efforts, the victims were
never located and never reappeared.
these procedures and appeals by the relatives of the victims proved
fruitless, because the same people who had allegedly brought about the
disappearances and who hid the evidence played a key part in the results
of the investigations. None of the writs of habeas corpus was successful
in any of the cases. Likewise, the complaints filed with the offices of
the government prosecutors led to little more than a request for
information from the military, who would deny the detention. The cases
were then shelved without ever being brought before the competent court of
the first instance. It should be added that generally the Peruvian
Government's replies to the Commission denying responsibility for the
disappearances are based precisely on photocopies, sent to the Commission,
of official communications in which the military itself denies having
carried out the arrests.
Commission considers it important to provide certain clarifications
regarding the exhaustion of domestic remedies in connection with the
forced disappearances in Peru. In this regard, it should be noted that the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights has held, in connection with the
exhaustion of domestic remedies, that, "in keeping with the object
and purpose of the Convention and in accordance with an interpretation of
Article 46 (1)(a) of the Convention, the proper remedy in the case of the
forced disappearance of persons would ordinarily be habeas corpus, since
those cases require urgent action by the authorities" (and it is)
"the normal means of finding a person presumably detained by the
authorities, of ascertaining whether he is legally detained and, given the
case, of obtaining his liberty." Thus, when a writ of habeas corpus
is presented in the case of persons who were detained and then
disappeared, and nothing comes of it because the victims are not located,
those are sufficient grounds for finding that domestic remedies have been
the Court has also ruled that domestic remedies must be effective, that
is, they must be capable of producing the results for which they were
intended, and that if there is proof of a practice or policy, ordered or
tolerated by the government, the effect of which is to prevent certain
persons from availing themselves of internal remedies that would normally
be available to all others, resorting to those remedies becomes a
senseless formality, so that the exceptions to the exhaustion of domestic
remedies provided for in Article 46(2) of the Convention would be fully
its analysis of the substance of the case, set forth in section VI below,
the Commission finds that, during the period in which the alleged events
took place, there existed in Peru a practice or policy of disappearances,
ordered or tolerated by various government authorities. For that reason,
and given that that practice rendered writs of habeas corpus completely
ineffective in cases of disappearances, the Commission finds that, for
purposes of admissibility of complaints before this Commission, it was not
necessary to attempt the habeas corpus remedy--or any other--in order to
exhaust domestic remedies. Consequently, the Commission considers that the
rule regarding exceptions to the exhaustion of domestic remedies
established in Article 46(2) of the Convention is fully applicable.
The Commission considers that the foregoing considerations apply
fully to the instant case, as it is a complaint regarding a forced
disappearance alleged to have occurred in 1992, which has been imputed to
the National Police of Peru and the Peruvian Navy.
That disappearance is said to have occurred during the period
(1989-1993) when the Commission determined, as noted in the above quote,
that there was a practice or policy of disappearances in Peru ordered or
tolerated by several public authorities, rendering completely ineffective
the habeas corpus remedy in
cases of disappearance; accordingly, the Commission determined that for
the purpose of the admissibility of complaints to the Commission, it was
not necessary to pursue the habeas corpus remedy--or any other--to exhaust domestic remedies.
Therefore, the Commission concludes that this case fits within the
exception set forth at Article 46(2)(a) of the Convention, according to
which the requirement to exhaust domestic remedies provided for at Article
46(1)(a) of the Convention is not applicable when “the domestic
legislation of the state concerned does not afford due process of law for
the protection of the right or rights that have allegedly been
violated.” The Commission observes, in addition, that the investigations
conducted were archived definitively by the Office of the Public
Prosecutor, in compliance with the provisions of the amnesty laws, laws
Nos. 26.479 and 26.492, which definitively blocked the attainment of any
results to which those investigations may have led.
period for submission
With respect to the requirement set forth at Article 46(1)(b) of
the Convention, according to which the petition must be submitted within
six months from the date on which the victim is notified of the final
judgment that exhausted domestic remedies, the Commission observes that
this requirement does not apply in this case.
This is because the exception to the exhaustion requirement at
Article 46(2)(a) of the Convention, as set forth in the previous
paragraph, also holds--by mandate of Article 46(2) of the Convention--for
the requirement concerning the time for submission of the petitions
provided for at the Convention.
The Commission, without prejudging on the merits, should add that
the forced disappearance of a person by state agents constitutes a
continuing violation by the State that persists, as a permanent infraction
of several articles of the American Convention, until the person or corpse
appears. Therefore, the
requirement concerning the time period for submission of petitions, set
forth at Article 46(1)(b) of the American Convention, does not apply to
Duplicity of procedures and res judicata
The Commission understands that the subject matter of the petition
is not pending before any other procedure for international settlement,
nor does it reproduce a petition already examined by this or any other
international organization. Therefore, the requirements established at
Articles 46(1)(c) and 47(d) are also satisfied.
Characterization of the facts
The Commission considers that the petitioner's presentation refers
to facts which, if true, could characterize a violation of rights
guaranteed in the Convention, for, as established supra, the issue
submitted to the Commission is the forced disappearance of several
29. For all the reasons set forth above, the Commission considers that it has jurisdiction to take cognizance of this case, and that pursuant to Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention the petition is admissible, in the terms set forth above.
Considerations on the merits
Having determined its jurisdiction to hear this case, and that in
keeping with Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention the petition is
admissible, the Commission now moves on to set forth its decision on the
merits, bearing in mind that the parties did not agree to initiate a
friendly settlement procedure, and that the Commission already has
sufficient grounds to make a decision on the merits.
practice of disappearances
In relation to the analysis of the merits of the present case, the
Commission regards as pertinent to reiterate the following considerations
concerning the practice of forced disappearances in Peru that the
Commission set forth recently, when it decided an accumulated group of 35
cases involving 67 “disappeared” persons in different provinces of
Peru during 1989-1993. To this respect, the Commission ruled in the
following terms, which completely ratifies in the present case:
the Commission decided to combine the cases under review because it
considers that the alleged events suggest a pattern of disappearances
brought about by Peruvian State agents around the same time period
(1989-1993), within the context of what are called anti-subversive
activities, and employing the same modus operandi.
Commission therefore decided to look into the possible existence of a
practice of forced disappearances brought about by the Peruvian State, or
at least tolerated by it, during the period in question (1989-1993). The
Commission cannot ignore, to use the words of the Inter-American Court,
"the special seriousness of finding that a State Party to the
Convention has carried out or has tolerated a practice of disappearances
in its territory." Nonetheless, it is crucial that the Commission, in
accordance with the functions assigned to it, carry out that analysis, not
only for the purposes of this report, but also to arrive at the truth
regarding a policy of human rights violations, with all its possible
repercussions for the clarification of other cases that have come to the
attention of this Commission.
In this regard, it should be pointed out that the criteria used to evaluate evidence in an international court of human rights have special standards, which empower the Commission to weigh the evidence freely and to determine the amount of proof necessary to support the judgment.
modus operandi used, according to the petitions received by the
Commission, in the arrests and disappearances in the cases in question,
involving Messrs. (…), shows an overall pattern of behavior that can be
considered admissible evidence of a systematic practice of disappearances.
Commission has received a very large number of complaints of
disappearances in Peru, many of which pertain to multiple disappeared
persons. In its 1993 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Peru, the
Commission discussed the problem of the forced disappearance of persons in
that country and indicated that it had already passed 43 resolutions
regarding individual cases involving 106 victims. Subsequently, the
Commission has continued to write reports on the matter. Moreover, the
Peruvian State itself has officially recognized the existence of forced
disappearances and has reported on 5,000 complaints of disappearances
between 1983 and 1991. The large number of complaints of this type is a
clear indication, in the Commission’s view, that disappearances in Peru
followed an official pattern devised and carried out in a systematic
indication is supported by the fact that, at the United Nations (UN), the
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, established by
the Commission on Human Rights in 1980, had received 3,004 cases of forced
disappearances in Peru. That Group points out that:
vast majority of the 3,004 cases of reported disappearances in Peru
occurred between 1983 and 1992, in the context of the Government's fight
against terrorist organizations, especially the "Shining Path"
(Sendero Luminoso). In late 1982, the armed forces and police undertook a
counter-insurgency campaign and the armed forces were granted a great deal
of latitude in fighting Shining Path and in restoring public order. While
the majority of reported disappearances took place in areas of the country
which had been under a state of emergency and were under military control,
in particular in the regions of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, San Martín, and
Apurímac, disappearances also took place in other parts of Peru.
Detentions were reportedly frequently carried out openly by uniformed
members of the armed forces, sometimes together with Civil Defense Groups.
Some 20 other cases reportedly occurred in 1993 in the Department of
Ucayali and concerned largely the disappearance of peasants. [Report of
the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disapperances.
UN document E/CN.4/1998/43, dated January 12, 1998, paragraph 297
Imelda Tumialán, the ad hoc Provincial Prosecutor for the Department of
Junín, has placed on record that in 1991 there were more than 100
disappearances in that Department. Likewise, in a note dated January 9,
1992, Peru's Assistant Attorney General pointed out that in the first 11
months of 1991 there had been 268 complaints of disappearances, and that
only a few cases had been solved. For its part, the National Coordinating
Body for Human Rights in Peru, a recognized nongovernmental umbrella group
of various Peruvian human rights organizations, estimates that 725 persons
disappeared in Peru between 1990 and 1992. The Commission has been told
that reports circulating freely in Peru indicated that military personnel,
and in some cases police officers, were carrying out disappearances. The
Commission has received numerous articles and news reports on such
disappearances, published by the print media and others.
On the basis of the foregoing evidence, the Commission concludes that in the 1989-1993 period there existed in Peru a systematic and selective practice of forced disappearances, carried out by agents of, or at least tolerated by, the Peruvian State. That official practice of forced disappearances was part of the "fight against subversion", although in many cases it harmed people who had nothing to do with the activities related to dissident groups.
Perpetration of the disappearances
On the basis of the various items of evidence mentioned above, the Commission sees fit to map out the steps usually involved in the above-mentioned official policy of disappearances:
Detention of the victims
Commission has been told that, in general, perpetration of the
disappearances was delegated to the political military commanders and the
commanding officers at military bases. The latter imparted orders directly
to the personnel who carried out the detentions, normally the first stage
of the disappearance process. Peru's national police force was also in
charge of perpetrating disappearances, usually through DINCOTE.
often the abduction and disappearance of a person began with information
obtained by members of the intelligence service, according to which that
person was in some way linked to subversive groups, chiefly the Shining
Path or the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). It should be
pointed out that in many instances the persons concerned were in no way
involved with those subversive groups, but were unfortunate enough to have
been included, fraudulently or by mistake, on the lists that would later
lead to their disappearance.
factor that, in certain Departments and under particular circumstances,
could lead to the detention and later disappearance of many people was the
fact that they were not carrying their voter registration documents, which
were used for identification purposes. In certain cases, during checkpoint
operations on public thoroughfares, a person unable to produce an
identification document upon request was almost automatically considered a
a person was considered "suspect", he or she was arrested; on
numerous occasions, this was the first step toward disappearance. Some
arrests were carried out openly in public, others at the victim's home,
usually in the early hours of the morning and in the presence of
witnesses. Those charged with carrying out the detentions were heavily
armed soldiers or police, sometimes dressed in civilian clothing, but most
often in uniform.
Generally, the soldiers or police paid little attention to the witnesses and proceeded to do what they came to do anyway. Arrests in people's homes were usually carried out in front of whoever happened to be there: wives, children, fathers, mothers, etc. Thus the normal pattern was for the personnel to arrest the victim regardless of who might be present, with no attempt to hide the official nature of what they were doing.
Official denial of the detentions
same day of the arrest, or in the days immediately following, relatives
would go to the place where the victim was detained and be told that he or
she was not being held. It should be stressed that since the arrests were
usually carried out publicly, the relatives knew where the victim had
first been detained. Nevertheless, the authorities denied the detention.
As the Commission has established previously:
fact that the military authorities deny having carried out the detention
thus merely confirms the clandestine nature of the military operations.
Detention is neither registered nor officially admitted, in order to make
it possible to employ torture during interrogation and if need be to apply
extrajudicial punishment to persons considered to be sympathizers,
collaborators, or members of the rebel groups.
A variation on this practice consisted of the authorities alleging that the victim had been released and even producing documents to show this, sometimes with a forgery of the victim’s signature, others with his or her real signature obtained under torture, when in fact the release had never taken place.
Torture and extrajudicial execution of detainees
When the victim did not die as a result of the torture inflicted, he or she was generally executed in summary, extrajudicial fashion. The bodies were then hidden by burial in secret places chosen to make their discovery practically impossible.
Amnesty for those responsible for the disappearances
general, cases of disappearance in Peru were not seriously investigated.
In practice, those responsible enjoyed almost total impunity, since they
were carrying out an official State plan. Despite that, the authorities
decided to go even further by passing Act Nº 26.479 (the "Amnesty
Act") in 1995. Article 1 of that Law grants a blanket amnesty to all
members of the security forces and civilian personnel accused,
investigated, indicted, prosecuted, or convicted for human rights
violations committed between May 1980 and June 1995. That law was later
strengthened by Act Nº 26.492, which prohibited the judiciary from ruling
on the legality or applicability of the Amnesty Law. In its annual reports
for 1996 and 1997, the Commission has addressed the issue of those amnesty
laws in the overall analysis of the human rights situation in Peru.
Although the Commission has been told that both laws can be rendered inapplicable by Peruvian judges, through what is known as their "broad powers" to rule on the constitutionality of laws--provided for in Article 138 of the Peruvian Constitution--the Commission considers the aforesaid laws an invalid attempt to legalize the impunity that existed in practice with regard to forced disappearances and other serious offenses committed by agents of the State. For example, the Commission has learned that the judges of the Constitutional Court, who were removed by the Congress, invoked that same Article 138 of the Constitution in their December 27, 1996, finding that Act Nº 26.657 did not apply to President Alberto Fujimori.
The burden of proof regarding disappearances
general principle is that, in cases of disappearance in which, in the
Commission’s view, there is sufficient evidence that the arrest was
carried out by State agents acting within the general framework of an
official policy of disappearances, it shall be presumed that the
victim’s disappearance was brought about by acts by Peruvian State
agents, unless that State gives proof to the contrary.
it is not incumbent upon the petitioners to prove that the victims have
disappeared, because it may be assumed, for lack of proof to the contrary,
that the Peruvian State is responsible for the disappearance of any person
it has detained. This is even more important in view of the aforementioned
government practice of causing disappearances. It is up to the State to
prove that it was not its agents who brought about the disappearance of
the "policy of disappearances, sponsored or tolerated by the
Government, is designed to conceal and destroy evidence of
disappearances". Then, as a result of action by the State, the
petitioner is deprived of evidence of the disappearance, since "this
type of repression is characterized by an attempt to suppress all
information about the kidnapping or the whereabouts and fate of the
victim." The fact is, as established by the Inter-American Court of
in contrast to domestic criminal law, in proceedings to determine human
rights violations the State cannot rely on the defense that the
complainant has failed to present evidence when it cannot be obtained
without the State’s cooperation.
Commission has explained in this regard that when there is proof of the
existence of a policy of disappearances sponsored or tolerated by the
Government, it is possible, using circumstantial or indirect evidence, or
through relevant logical inference, to prove the disappearance of a
specific individual when that would otherwise be impossible given the link
between that disappearance and the overall policy.
recently, the Commission has also determined that:
burden of proof lies with the State, because when the State holds a person
in detention and under its exclusive control, it becomes the guarantor of
that person’s safety and rights. In addition, the State has exclusive
control over information or evidence regarding the fate of the detained
person. This is particularly true in a disappearance case where, by
definition, the family members of the victim or other interested persons
are unable to learn about the fate of the victim.
This establishes the inversion of the burden of proof for cases of disappearance in Peru and the effects of that inversion on cases being heard by the Commission.
Considerations relating to forced disappearances
General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) has called
the practice of the forced or involuntary disappearance of persons a crime
against humanity that strikes against the fundamental rights of the human
individual, such as personal liberty and well-being, the right to proper
judicial protection and due process, and even the right to life. In that
context, the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS)
adopted, in 1994, an Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance
of Persons as a means of preventing and punishing the forced disappearance
of persons in our Hemisphere.
Commission has affirmed, in relation to the forced disappearance of
procedure is cruel and inhuman. ... [It] not only constitutes an arbitrary
deprivation of freedom but also a serious danger to the personal integrity
and safety and to even the very life of the victim. It leaves the victim
totally defenseless, violating the rights to a fair trial, to protection
against arbitrary arrest, and to due process.
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has affirmed
that the forced or involuntary disappearance of a person is a particularly
odious violation of human rights, and is
doubly paralyzing form of suffering: for the victims, frequently tortured
and in constant fear for their lives, and for their family members,
ignorant of the fate of their loved ones, their emotions alternating
between hope and despair, wondering and waiting, sometimes for years, for
news that may never come. The victims are well aware that their families
do not know what has become of them and that the chances are slim that
anyone will come to their aid. Having been removed from the protective
precinct of the law and "disappeared" from society, they are in
fact deprived of all their rights and are at the mercy of their captors.
If death is not the final outcome and they are eventually released from
the nightmare, the victims may suffer for a long time from the physical
and psychological consequences of this form of dehumanization and from the
brutality and torture which often accompany it.
family and friends of disappeared persons experience slow mental torture,
not knowing whether the victim is still alive and, if so, where he or she
is being held, under what conditions, and in what state of health. Aware,
furthermore, that they too are threatened; that they may suffer the same
fate themselves, and that to search for the truth may expose them to even
family’s distress is frequently compounded by the material consequences
resulting from the disappearance. The missing person is often the mainstay
of the family’s finances. He or she may be the only member of the family
able to cultivate the crops or run the family business. The emotional
upheaval is thus exacerbated by material deprivation, made more acute by
the costs incurred should they decide to undertake a search. Furthermore,
they do not know when--if ever--their loved one is going to return, which
makes it difficult for them to adapt to the new situation. In some cases,
national legislation may make it impossible to receive pensions or other
means of support in the absence of a certificate of death. Economic and
social marginalization is frequently the result.
In keeping with the doctrine of the Commission outlined above, the
general principle is that in cases of disappearance in which there are
sufficient indicia of evidence, in the view of the Commission, that the
detention was presumably effectuated by State agents in the general
context of an official policy of disappearances, the Commission will
presume that the victim was disappeared by agents of the Peruvian State,
unless that State has proven otherwise.
In applying those considerations to the instant case, the
Commission, as regards the detention of the victims, observes that the
petitioner alleges that Messrs. Pedro Pablo López González, Denis Atilio
Castillo Chávez, Gilmer Ramiro León Velásquez, Jesús Manfredo Noriega
Ríos, Roberto and Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez, and Carlos Martín
and Jorge Luis Tarazona More were detained on May 2, 1992, by members of
the National Police and Peruvian Navy, in the human settlements of “La
Huaca,” “Javier Heraud,” and “San Carlos,”
located in the district and province of Santa, department of Ancash, and
that they later disappeared.
In this respect, and based on the facts narrated by the petitioner
and the fact that the Office of the Attorney General had determined, on
August 31, 1995, to definitively archive the investigation, because it was
considered that from the relevant evidence it appeared to be “members of
the armed forces and the National Police of Peru,” the Commission has
sufficient grounds to establish the veracity of the facts alleged with
respect to the victims’ detention.
The foregoing is also corroborated by the testimony of Mrs.
Maximina González Méndez, Mrs. Paula Peregrina Flores de Dionicio, Mrs.
Cruz Velásquez León de Barrientos, Mrs. Hormecinda Velásquez viuda de
León, Mrs. Agustina Moreno Estrada, and Mrs. Margot Nancy Reyes Sáenz;
the testimony of Messrs. Alejandro Castillo Vega and Germán Domingo
Quispe Moreno; the modus operandi
of the detention; and all the other evidentiary indicia, which include the
steps taken and remedies pursued domestically to locate and win the
release of the victims, the reports prepared by the police to deny that
the detentions had been at the hands of members of the police, without the
Peruvian State carrying out a serious judicial investigation into the
grave facts. In addition is the circumstance that the detentions occurred
in 1992, a time when, as the Commission has established, there was a
systematic and selective practice of forced disappearances by agents of
the Peruvian State.
Based on the foregoing, the Commission finds that the victims were
detained on May 2, 1992, by members of the National Police and Peruvian
Navy at the human settlements of “La Huaca,” “Javier
Heraud,” and “San Carlos,” located in the district and
province of Santa, department of Ancash.
Therefore, and in keeping with the above-noted doctrine of the
Commission, the burden was on the Peruvian State to prove that it did not
disappear Messrs. López González, Castillo Chávez, Ramiro León Velásquez,
Noriega Ríos, Barrientos Velásquez, and Tarazona More.
In effect, the Commission observes that the State did not provide
any evidence tending to show that it did not disappear Messrs. López González,
Castillo Chávez, Ramiro León Velásquez, Noriega Ríos, Barrientos Velásquez,
and Tarazona More; rather, it initially denied that it had detained them,
and archived the investigations due to the fact that there was evidence
that members of the Police and armed forces were responsible for those
Based on the reasons set forth above, the Commission concludes that
the Peruvian State, through the National Police and Peruvian Navy,
detained Messrs. Pedro Pablo López González, Denis Atilio Castillo Chávez,
Gilmer Ramiro León Velásquez, Jesús Manfredo Noriega Ríos, Roberto and
Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez, and Carlos Martín and Jorge Luis
Tarazona More on May 2, 1992, in the human settlements of “La Huaca,”
“Javier Heraud,” and “San Carlos,” located in the
district and province of Santa, department of Ancash, and that it later
proceeded to disappear them.
That detention and subsequent disappearance followed the
characteristic pattern: the
detention of the victim by military agents; an official denial of
responsibility for the disappearance; the failure of the public
authorities to carry out an investigation into the situation of the
victim; the ineffectiveness of domestic remedies; the torture and possible
extrajudicial execution of the victim; and absolute impunity, reinforced
by the subsequent amnesty.
Violation of the victims' human rights
39. The Commission now proceeds to analyze the specific violations by the Peruvian State of the rights set forth in the Convention implicit in the disappearance of Messrs. Pedro Pablo López González, Denis Atilio Castillo Chávez, Gilmer Ramiro León Velásquez, Jesús Manfredo Noriega Ríos, Roberto and Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez and Carlos Martín and Jorge Luis Tarazona More.
The Peruvian State deposited the instrument of ratification of the
American Convention on July 28, 1978.
IACHR, Report Nº 51/99, Case 10.471 and others (Peru), Annual Report
1998, para. 58 to 63. See also, IACHR, Reports Nos. 52/99, 53/99,
54/99, 55/99, 56/99, and 57/99 (Peru), Annual Report 1998.
IACHR, Report Nº 51/99, Cases 10.471 and others (Peru), Annual Report
1998, para. 68 to 95. See also, IACHR, Reports Nos. 52/99, 53/99,
54/99, 55/99, 56/99, and 57/99 (Peru), Annual Report 1998.
As mentioned in paragraph 28, supra,
the Commission, citing the doctrine of the Inter-American Court, has
said that when the existence of a policy of disappearances supported
or tolerated by the government has been shown, the disappearance of a
particular individual may be proved through circumstantial or indirect
evidence, or by logical inference; otherwise it would be impossible to
prove that an individual has been disappeared.
(Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case of Velásquez
Rodríguez, Judgment of July 29, 1988, para. 124).