Contreras et al. v. El Salvador

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Children/Youth | Women and Girls | Juridical Personality | Obligation to Prevent

Themes: Persons and Groups Affected | Prevention | Justice and Truth

The Court noted that victims of enforced disappearance are in an aggravated situation of vulnerability, which is exacerbated where there is a systematic pattern of human rights violations. When disappearances involve children, the illegal abduction of their biological parents puts the children's life, survival, and development at risk. The Court considered it necessary for the State to adopt clear and concrete strategies aimed at overcoming impunity in the prosecution of enforced disappearances of children during the armed conflict; to make visible the systematic nature of this crime (which mainly affected Salvadorian children); and to prevent these acts from being repeated (or from being considered as a normal consequence of, or inherent to, the armed conflict).

The Court recognised that, although the right to identity is not expressly established in the American Convention on Human Rights, in this case various illegal actions were committed to prevent the re-establishment of the connection between the abducted minors and their families. These actions interfered with the children's private lives and resulted in infringements of the right to a name and to family relations. The Court concluded that this set of violations constituted an impairment or loss of the right to identity.

Among the reparation measures, the Court ordered the State to adopt all appropriate and necessary measures for the restitution of the identity of Ms. Gregoria Herminia Contreras. This included restoring the name and surname given to her by her biological parents, as well as other personal data, which should include the amendment of all State records in El Salvador.

Judgment Date

August 30, 2011

Country

El Salvador

Judicial Body

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 1(1) [ACHR], Article 3 [ACHR], Article 4(1) [ACHR], Article 5(1) [ACHR], Article 5(2) [ACHR], Article 7 [ACHR], Article 7(6) [ACHR], Article 8(1) [ACHR], Article 11(2) [ACHR], Article 17(1) [ACHR], Article 18 [ACHR], Article 19 [ACHR], Article 25(1) [ACHR]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 13 [ACHR], Article 25(2) [ACHR]

Facts of the Case

Between 1981 and 1983, during different counter-insurgency operations, members of the armed forces abducted six children as part of a systematic pattern of enforced disappearances of children. Many of these disappearances involved the appropriation of the children and their registration under another name or false data. By the time of judgment, only the whereabouts of one child, Ms. Gregoria Herminia Contreras, had been established. She was taken by a soldier who told her that her parents had been killed in the context of the armed conflict in El Salvador and who subjected her to various forms of physical, psychological and sexual violence.

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