Genaro Villegas Namuche

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Crimes Against Humanity | Judicial Protection | Relatives as Victims | Right to Know the Truth | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Guarantees Against Impunity | Statute of Limitations

Themes: Characteristics of the Crime | Justice and Truth | Related Crimes

The Court held that, although at the time of the events enforced disappearance was not a crime under domestic legislation, the victim's rights were included in the Constitution and the international instruments signed and ratified by Peru. It added that since enforced disappearance is a permanent crime until the whereabouts of the victim are established, the law criminalising it (which entered into force after the abduction) could be applied.

The Court found that the right to the truth had been violated. It held that the right to the truth to be an inalienable collective legal right, holding that the country had the right to know the truth about its past and that it has an individual dimension, whose holders are the victims, their relatives and the persons close to them. The Court also held that persons directly or indirectly affected by a crime of this magnitude have a right to know who committed the crime, when, where, how and why the victim was executed, and the location of their remains. The right persists regardless of the amount of time passed and it shall not be subject to a statute of limitations. The Court inferred the right to the truth not only from the state's international obligations, but also from its constitutional obligations to protect fundamental rights and provide jurisdictional protection. It stated that the right to truth is derived from the principle of human dignity, since the damage caused to the victims resulted in injury to life, liberty and personal integrity, but also in not knowing what happened to the victims. According to the Court, not knowing where the remains of a loved one lie, or what happened to them, was perhaps one of the most subtle, but no less violent, ways of affecting the conscience and dignity of human beings. Its is realised through the rule of law and in this respect, the Court held that it is the State’s responsibility to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity and to evaluate statutes of limitations for serious human rights violations. It added that impunity must always be prevented, since it encourages criminals to repeat their behaviour, serves as a breeding ground for revenge and corrodes two founding values of a democratic society: truth and justice. In this respect, the Court highlighted how, in the case of human rights violations, the victim's right is not limited to obtaining financial reparation, but also includes the State’s obligation to take over the investigation of the facts.

Judgment Date

March 18, 2004

Country

Judicial Body

Peru - Constitutional Court

Articles violated

Article 3 [PC]

Facts of the Case

Mr. Genaro Villegas Namuche, a university student, disappeared on his way to work in October 1992. The following day, a group of armed and hooded men forcibly entered Mr. Namuche's home in search of so-called subversive materials. The authorities refused to help Mr. Namuche's sister in the search for her brother, and progressively detained all the lawyers hired by his family. Mr. Namuche's whereabouts were still unknown at the time of the proceedings.

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