Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR)

The IACtHR is a regional human rights court responsible for applying and interpreting the American Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments in the region. Its main function is to decide cases on human rights violations committed by States that have accepted its jurisdiction.

News from the IACtHR:

– On July 28, 2023, the IACtHR decided that Paraguay was internationally responsible for the torture of police inspector Jorge Luis López Sosa, as well as for the violation of other human rights of the victim. The facts of the case are set in the context of an attempted coup d’état that took place on May 18, 2000, by some members of the First Army Corps, the Command, and other branches of the National Police. The coup aimed to depose the president of the Republic, who at the time was Luis Ángel González Macchi. In this scenario, the President suspended rights and guarantees enshrined in the Political Constitution. On the morning of May 19, 2000, Mr. López Sosa, who worked as a petty officer in the National Police, went to his place of work. When he arrived there, he was called by his boss, who told him that he should report to Commissioner J.B.P. at Metropolitan Commissionerate 11. When he arrived there, he was taken to the dispatch where an officer disarmed him, tied his hands, blindfolded him, and laid him on the ground. At that point, several officers began to ask him a series of questions about what he had done the night before, assuming that Mr. López Sosa had some kind of participation in the coup attempt. Mr. López Sosa was beaten with a stick and in other ways throughout the morning, while he heard another detained person being beaten and screaming in pain. He was subsequently transferred to two establishments, where he remained handcuffed and in precarious and inhumane conditions.
He was then subjected to two procedures: a police disciplinary procedure and a criminal procedure. In the first one, he was found to have participated in the attempted coup and was punished with an administrative sanction and dismissal from the service. In the criminal proceedings, the Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a resolution ordering the arrest of Mr. López Sosa, indicting him for the crime of “punishable acts against the existence of the State and against the constitutional order”. He was thus imprisoned until December 14 of the same year and, at the end of his imprisonment, the criminal proceedings were declared extinct and Mr. López Sosa was reincorporated into the National Police, with the same position he had previously held.

The IACtHR concluded that Article 7 (right to personal liberty) was violated. Firstly, Article 7(2) was violated because the detention of Mr. López Sosa was not carried out through a written order from the competent authority before the arrest. Secondly, Articles 7(4) were violated, as he was not informed of the reasons for his detention, and 7(5), as the right to be brought before a judge within a period not exceeding 24 hours was not complied with. The Paraguayan State was also held responsible for the acts of torture inflicted on Mr. López Sosa by State agents, since it was considered to have been intentional, to have produced physical and psychological suffering, and to have sought to obtain a confession, in clear violation of Articles 5(1) and 5(2) (right to humane treatment and prohibition of torture), as well as Articles 1 (obligation to prevent and punish torture) and 6 (obligation to take effective measures to prevent and punish torture) of the Interamerican Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. Finally, the IACtHR found that Articles 8 (right to a fair trial) and 25 (right to judicial protection) were violated, since there were failures within the framework of the investigation (such as the production of physical evidence), as well as non-compliance with the reasonable time limit (more than 22 years have passed since the facts occurred without a firm judgment). The decision (in Spanish) can be found here and the press release (in Spanish) here.