Guerrero Larez v. Venezuela
Deprivation of Liberty | Relatives as Victims | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Obligation to Prevent | Interim/Urgent Measures
The Committee held that the State is under a special obligation to ensure that persons deprived of their liberty can exercise their rights, and that such special responsibility derives from the extent of the control that prison authorities exercise over persons serving a custodial sentence. The Committee found a violation of the obligation to take effective measures to prevent the practice of torture in prisons and, in particular, to protect inmates from becoming victims of disappearance. It also found that acts of cruel and inhuman treatment were committed against the victim's relatives, due to the anguish and distress caused by the enforced disappearance itself; to the fact that they neither received information on the circumstances of the victim's alleged death or escape and were never given access to his bodily remains; and to the fact that the authorities were indifferent to their efforts to ascertain his whereabouts and fate.
May 15, 2015
Article 1 [CAT], Article 2(1) [CAT], Article 11 [CAT], Article 12 [CAT], Article 14 [CAT], Article 16 [CAT]
Facts of the Case
Mr. Francisco Dionel Guerrero Larez was sentenced to imprisonment in December 1997, and served his sentence in the General Penitentiary. On 7 September 2009, his father received two telephone calls: the first from his son, and the second from an unknown person, who informed him that Mr. Guerrero Larez had been murdered in prison. On 8 September 2009, Mr. Guerrero Larez's father went to the Penitentiary but did not find his son or receive information on his whereabouts, being told that the prison population was “out of control” and that his son's body would be handed over to him the following day. The director of the Penitentiary subsequently informed Mr. Guerrero Larez's father that his son had escaped from the prison. Mr. Guerrero Larez's wife reported the disappearance and probable murder of her husband to the National Guard and alleged that she had received information from other inmates that her husband had been murdered, dismembered and buried within the premises of the Penitentiary. Mr. Guerrero Larez's family lodged a number of complaints and requests of habeas corpus to public authorities. Following an Inter-American Court's decision on provisional measures, in December 2009 a criminal court granted the habeas corpus request and ordered the Public Prosecution Service to conduct an investigation to establish the whereabouts of Mr. Guerrero Larez, including through an inspection of the Penitentiary premises. However, the authorities refused to conduct such inspection, and did not take any step to verify the information submitted by Mr. Guerrero Larez's family.