Godínez Cruz v. Honduras

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Judicial Protection | Deprivation of Liberty

Themes: Justice and Truth | Related Crimes | Prevention

The Court noted that the practice of enforced disappearances signifies a radical breach of the American Convention, in that it implies the crass abandonment of the values that emanate from human dignity and of the principles that most profoundly underpin the Inter-American System and the Convention itself. The Court also found that the practice of disappearances creates a climate incompatible with the guarantee of human rights under the Convention, as the practice relaxes, or contravenes, the minimum standards of conduct which should govern security forces. The practice thus allows security forces to violate rights with impunity.

The Court recalled that under international law, the State is responsible for the acts of its agents carried out in their official capacity and for their omissions, even if they act outside the limits of their competence or in violation of domestic law. It also recalled that an unlawful act that is not directly attributable to a State may nonetheless entail State responsibility if there has been a lack of due diligence in preventing the violation or responding to it, as is required by the Convention. Finally, the Court also held that the duty to investigate acts of this kind exists for as long as there is uncertainty about the final fate of the disappeared person.

Judgment Date

August 17, 1990

Country

Honduras

Judicial Body

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 1 [ACHR], Article 4 [ACHR], Article 5 [ACHR], Article 7 [ACHR]

Facts of the Case

Mr. Saúl Godínez Cruz was a teachers' leader who had coordinated and participated in numerous strikes. On 22 July 1982, he was captured in the context of a pattern of violent kidnappings in the country, which developed between 1981 and 1984. The disappearances were perpetrated by armed and disguised men in civilian clothes, acting with apparent impunity, who drove vehicles with tinted windows and without official identification or licence plates, or with false ones. In the days before his disappearance, the victim had been subjected to threats and had been watched and followed.

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