Blake v. Guatemala

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Economic/Social/Cultural Rights | Refusal to Disclose Fate | Relatives as Victims | Right to Know the Truth | State/Non-State Agents | Judicial Protection | Juridical Personality

Themes: Memory and Reparations | Justice and Truth | Related Crimes

The Court in this case recognised the next of kin of disappeared persons as victims. The Court stated that the suffering of Mr. Nicholas Blake’s relatives could be examined against the alleged violation of Article 5.1 because the impact on their mental and moral integrity was a direct consequence of his disappearance. It held that the circumstance of the disappearance caused suffering and anguish, and the authorities’ failure to investigate caused the family further anguish and frustration. The Court stated that the fact that the civil patrol – acting under the orders of the Guatemalan army – burned and destroyed the victim's remains in order to destroy all traces that could reveal his whereabouts assaulted Guatemalan cultural values, which were handed down from generation to generation, to respect the dead, and caused the family additional suffering.

Judgment Date

January 24, 1988

Country

Guatemala

Judicial Body

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 1(1) [ACHR], Article 5 [ACHR], Article 8(1) [ACHR]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 4 [ACHR], Article 7 [ACHR], Article 13 [ACHR], Article 22 [ACHR], Article 25 [ACHR]

Facts of the Case

This case concerned the disappearance of two US citizens – Mr. Nicholas Blake (a journalist) and Mr. Griffith Davis (a photographer) – who were detained in Guatemala in March 1985. Both were detained by the El Llano Civil Self-Defense Patrol and their assassinated bodies were discovered in March and June 1992, respectively. Mr. Blake’s relatives commenced several actions and proceedings to establish his whereabouts, but no investigation or prosecution was undertaken by the state in question.

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