Posted in: Prison Emergency

Case of Montero Aranguren et al. (Detention Center of Catia) v. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

In the case of Montero Aranguren et al. (Detention Center of Catia), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the Inter-American Court”, “the Court” or “the Tribunal”), composed of the following judges *:

Sergio García Ramírez, President;

Alirio Abreu Burelli, Vice President;

Antônio A. Cançado Trindade, Judge;

Cecilia Medina Quiroga, Judge, and

Manuel E. Ventura Robles, Judge.

present, in addition,

Pablo Saavedra Alessandri, Secretary, and

Emilia Segares Rodríguez, Deputy Secretary, in accordance with Articles 62.3 and 63.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Convention” or “the American Convention”) and with Articles 29, 31, 53.2, 55, 56 and 58 of the Rules of the Court (hereinafter “the Rules”), dictates this Judgment.

I. Introduction of the Cause

1. On February 24, 2005, in accordance with the provisions of Articles 50 and 61 of the American Convention, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission” or “the Inter-American Commission”) submitted to the Court a complaint against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (hereinafter “the State” or “Venezuela”), which originated in complaint number 11,699, received at the Secretariat of the Commission on November 12, 1996.

2. The Commission filed the application in this case in order for the Court to decide whether the State violated the rights enshrined in Articles 4 (Right to Life) and 5 (Right to Humane Treatment) of the American Convention, in in relation to the obligation established in article 1.1 (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the same, to the detriment of the inmates who supposedly died in an operation carried out on November 27, 1992 at the Detention Center and Judicial Confinement Center of “Los Flores de Catia ”(Hereinafter“ the Retén de Catia ”). In turn, the Commission asked the Court to declare that the State violated the rights enshrined in Articles 8 (Judicial Guarantees) and 25 (Judicial Protection) of the American Convention, in relation to the obligation established in Article 1.1 (Obligation of Respecting the Rights) thereof, to the detriment of the alleged victims and their next of kin. Finally, the Commission asked the Inter-American Court to declare Venezuela responsible for the breach of the general obligation established in Article 2 of the American Convention, for not suppressing from its legislation the provisions that attribute to the military courts competence to investigate violations of human rights and for not having developed policies aimed at reforming the prison system.

3. The application refers to the alleged extrajudicial execution of 37 inmates of the Detention Center of Catia, located in the city of Caracas, Venezuela, on the early morning of November 27, 1992. These events occurred after a second attempted military coup in Venezuela, which would have caused an upheaval within the aforementioned checkpoint. Presumably, the prison guards and troops from the 5th Regional Command of the National Guard and the Metropolitan Police intervened en masse, using disproportionate force and shooting indiscriminately at the prison population. The versions of the events of some survivors say that the Detention Center guards opened the doors of the cells announcing to the inmates that they were released, they waited for the inmates to leave and fired at them. The inmates were also alleged to be living in inhumane conditions of detention.

4. The Commission alleged that after the events an investigation was initiated by the Public Ministry and the judicial authorities, which was characterized by the obstruction and lack of collaboration on the part of the police, military, and prison authorities. As of August 1994, no actions were taken to gather more information, and no procedural activity was carried out in the case. For almost 8 years, the relatives of the alleged victims were denied access to the file. Currently the investigation rests with the Sixty-eighth Prosecutor’s Office of the Metropolitan Area of ​​Caracas in the preliminary investigation phase under file number 4582.

5. Furthermore, the Commission asked the Inter-American Court to order the State, in accordance with Article 63.1 of the Convention, to adopt certain measures of reparation indicated in the application. Lastly, it asked the Court to order the State to pay the costs and expenses generated in the processing of the case in the domestic jurisdiction and before the organs of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights.