Simón et al.

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Crimes Against Humanity | Jus Cogens | Systemic Practice | Right to Know the Truth | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Punishment | Amnesties | Statute of Limitations | Deprivation of Liberty

Themes: Justice and Truth | Characteristics of the Crime

The Court held that systematic violations of human rights, such as those that occurred in the country between 1976 and 1983, called for a search for historical truth as the first step to the moral reconstructing of the social fabric and the institutional mechanisms of the State. It added that this process could not be completed solely by investigating the truth, but must also include sanctioning those responsible. It found that it was the task of the Public Prosecutor's Office, as the custodian of legality and of the general interests of society, to guarantee to victims' right to know the truth.

The Court examined the constitutionality of the laws barring the prosecution and punishment of people accused of crimes committed during the dictatorship, finding them incompatible with both the Constitution and the international public order. In particular, the Court made reference to international norms having constitutional hierarchy such as the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were binding for the State and mandated the criminal prosecution of serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity. In this respect, the Court held that amnesties aimed at forgetting serious violations of human rights could not be included into the legislative branch’s power to dictate general amnesties, recalling how amnesty laws have historically been used as instruments of social pacification, with the purpose of resolving remaining conflicts after the end of civil struggles. In light of the above, the Court recognised the State’s duty to remove the obstacles that prevent it from fulfilling its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish serious violations of human rights that occurred in the country during the last military dictatorship. This duty applies beyond the legislative branch to the entire State, obliging the Public Ministry and the judiciary not to approve of acts by other branches of the State that infringe this duty.

The Court further found that the statute of limitations did not run out, holding that the relevant crime (illegitimate deprivation of liberty) was permanent in nature and can only be considered concluded once the victim or their whereabouts are found. It added that rules which recognised enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity and provided for its imprescriptibility (meaning that statutes of limitations do not apply) were not only integrated into domestic law through the ratification of the Convention on the Imprescriptibility of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, but also through forming part of jus cogens and customary international law.

Judgment Date

June 14, 2005

Country

Argentina

Judicial Body

Argentina - Supreme Court

Articles violated

Article 29 [ACC], Article 142 bis [ACC]

Facts of the Case

Mr. José Liborio Poblete Rosa was kidnapped in the streets in November 1978 along with his wife, Ms. Gertrudis Marta Hlaczik, and their daughter, Ms. Claudia Victoria Poblete. They were taken to a clandestine detention centre, where Mr. Poblete Rosa and Ms. Hlaczik were tortured by different people. They remained there for about two months and then transferred elsewhere. Their whereabouts were still unknown at the time of the proceedings. In 1986, a Law mandating the end of investigation and prosecution of people accused of political violence during the dictatorship was passed. In 1987, another Law was passed, prohibiting the punishment of any members of the Armed Forces, the Police, the Penitentiary Service and other security agencies for crimes committed during the dictatorship if they were obeying orders from their superiors.

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