González Medina and Family v. Dominican Republic

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Juridical Personality | Guarantees Against Impunity | Deprivation of Liberty

Themes: Related Crimes | Memory and Reparations

The Court considered it reasonable to presume that Mr. González Medina suffered physical and psychological mistreatment while in State custody, aggravated by the lack of attention to his epileptic condition, amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Furthermore, the Court reiterated that enforced disappearance in itself violates the right to humane treatment, as the mere fact of prolonged isolation and compulsory solitary confinement represents cruel and inhuman treatment.

The Court had previously established that when the purpose of a violation of the rights to life, personal liberty or personal integrity is to impede the legitimate exercise of another right protected by the Convention, there is also an autonomous violation of such other right. However, in this case, the Court clarified that the circumstances in which the disappearance was perpetrated - in order to impede the legitimate exercise of another right - does not mean that the consequent autonomous violation of that other right is of a permanent nature (here, the right to freedom of expression). The fact that the person is currently unable to exercise the other right does not mean that the violation has been prolonged continuously over time, as a single and continuing violation.

Regarding reparations, and in particular historical memory, the Court found it appropriate that the State make an audio-visual documentary on the life of Mr. González Medina, referring to his journalistic, literary and creative work and to his contribution to Dominican culture.

Judgment Date

February 21, 2012

Country

Dominican Republic

Judicial Body

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 1(1) [ACHR], Article 1(2) [ACHR], Article 3 [ACHR], Article 4(1) [ACHR], Article 5(1) [ACHR], Article 5(2) [ACHR], Article 7 [ACHR], Article 8(1) [ACHR], Article 25(1) [ACHR], Article 1 [IACFDP], Article 6 [IACFDP], Article 8 [IACFDP]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 13 [ACHR], Article 17 [ACHR]

Facts of the Case

Mr. Narciso González Medina was a lawyer and professor at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. Mr. González Medina was a well-known activist and critic of the government. On 27 May 1994, his family realised he did not come back home. As he suffered from a "refractory epilepsy" which caused frequent convulsions and which required daily medication, the family immediately searched for him, including at police stations.

Witnesses reported that Mr. González Medina was held by state agents on the day of his disappearance and in the days following, was apparently beaten and in poor physical condition. On 9 October 1994, the family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances of Mr. González Medina formed an organisation which they called "Truth Commission” in order to establish a civic body to demand that the case be clarified. They took different steps to find him, such as installing “letter boxes” in public places so that people could deposit any information they considered pertinent about his disappearance.

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