Rosa Maria Serna and Others v. Colombia

Key Judgment

Legal Relevance

Keywords: State/Non-State Agents | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Judicial Protection | Juridical Personality | Systemic Practice | Relatives as Victims

Themes: Characteristics of the Crime | Prevention | Related Crimes

The Committee was satisfied that the victim's disappearance was attributable to the State, in light of the fact that enforced disappearance was a widespread practice used by paramilitary groups in the relevant period with the complicity of the armed forces, and that the State encouraged the establishment of “self-defence” groups and provided them with training, weapons and logistical support. The Committee also made a finding of inhuman treatment with respect to the victims' families, as they experienced severe stress as a result of the disappearance of their loved ones and the uncertainty surrounding their fate and whereabouts. Finally, the Committee found a violation of the victims' right to be recognised as persons before the law, arguing that intentionally removing someone from the protection of the law constitutes a refusal to recognise the victim as a person, in particular if the efforts of the relatives to obtain access to effective remedies have been systematically impeded. In his individual opinion, one of the members of the Committee disagreed with the finding that the State intentionally removed the victims from the protection of the law, pointing to the absence of specific evidence directly tying the disappearances to the State.

Judgment Date

July 9, 2015



Judicial Body

Human Rights Committee

Articles violated

Article 2(3) [ICCPR], Article 6 [ICCPR], Article 7 [ICCPR], Article 9 [ICCPR], Article 16 [ICCPR]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 10 [ICCPR], Article 17 [ICCPR], Article 23 [ICCPR]

Facts of the Case

Mr. Guillermo Anzola Grajales and Mr. Julio Eduardo Molina Arias disappeared in unknown circumstances while travelling in a region with a heavy paramilitary presence in March 1995. A few days later, their wives lodged a criminal complaint, but no investigation was opened. While they were making inquiries into their husbands' disappearance, Mr. Anzola's and Mr. Molina's wives were reportedly told by a police officer that paramilitary groups were stopping people in the area to check their identity and subsequently disappearing persons, adding that the police could do nothing about it because they did not have control in that area. On the same day, the two women managed to escape from a group of men who ordered them to get out of the car. A few weeks after the disappearance, the car in which Mr. Anzola and Mr. Molina were travelling was found abandoned. The police informed their relatives that the car had been found intact; however, when the car was returned, it had been ransacked. In June 1995, a person claimed to have seen Mr. Anzola and Mr. Molina leaving a bank in the company of armed men who put them in a car. Mr. Anzola's and Mr. Molina's families lodged a number of complaints, and proceedings were instituted before the authorities at various levels. However, it was not possible to obtain any information regarding Mr. Anzola and Mr. Molina's whereabouts and fate. In September 2001, Mr. Molina's wife filled out the disappeared persons search request form with respect to her husband.

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