Posts Tagged ‘CIDH’

Nibia Zabalzagaray and the long arc of justice

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

UPDATE – January 5, 2015

(1) “EL OFICIAL CUMPLÍA UNA PENA DE 28 AÑOS POR EL CASO SABALSAGARAY: Falleció el general retirado Miguel Dalmao;
El general Miguel Dalmao falleció ayer en el CTI del Hospital Militar, donde se encontraba internado aquejado por varias dolencias cardíacas y respiratorias,” El Pais (Montevideo), 30 de diciembre 2014.

(2) EFE, “Muere Miguel Dalmao, general uruguayo condenado por crímenes en la dictadura,” La Vanguardia (Montevideo), 29 de diciembre 2014.

The original article, below, was published on May 9, 2013.

“(T)he arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

The Case of Nibia Zabalsagaray (Sabalsagaray)

Uruguayan General Miguel Dalmao has been found guilty of the murder of Nibia Sabalsagaray in 1974.

See Associated Press (Buenos Aires, “Uruguayan general found guilty of junta’s 1974 murder of communist; General Miguel Dalmao convicted of murder of professor and activist Nibia Sabalsagaray during Uruguay’s military dictatorship,” The Guardian, May 9, 2013. (16.36 EDT)

See also:

“Uruguay Supreme Court annuls amnesty law, as accountability continues in Latin America, on international law, policy, practice, November 3, 2010 (with picture of Nibia Sabalsagaray).

I remember Nibia Sabalsagaray, or rather her case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)–or the Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), as it is known in Spanish. The IACHR is the human rights organ of the Organization of American States, established pursuant to both the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights (in force since 1978).

Although much litigation has ensued, including decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and several decisions by the Uruguayan Supreme Court on what amounted to an amnesty law, the original decision of the IACHR, issued four years after the facts, is worth recalling in detail.

The 1978 Decision on Case 1870 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Text of the Commission’s decision in Case No. 1870 (Nibia Zabalsagaray) follows:

Case 1870



In a communication dated August 22, 1974, the following was denounced:

A young woman, a 20-year-old student and professor, NIBIA ZABALZAGARAY, (was) killed as a result of tortures inflicted at the Police Station at Señaleros, located in the El Peñarol neighborhood of Montevideo.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in a note dated October 8, 1974, transmitted the pertinent parts of the denunciation to the Government of Uruguay and requested that it provide the appropriate information;

The Government, in a note date May 23, 1975, requested a ninety-day extension in order to provide the information requested;

The Commission, in a note dated June 12, 1975, granted a thirty-day extension to the Government, which elapsed on July 12, 1975;

The Government of Uruguay, in a note dated July 12, 1975, reported the following to the Commission:

I – The death of Miss Nibia Zabalzagaray

The individual in question was detained on July 29, 1974 and within 24 hours of her detention she committed suicide in her cell.

The competent judicial organ intervened, ordering an opinion from the forensic physician. His reports states: ‘asphyxiation by suspension’ (hanging) as the cause of death.

The intervening Judge, in the absence of proof of any illegality, closed the proceedings on August 2, 1974.

The claimant, in a communication dated July 8, 1975, provided additional information to the Commission, the pertinent parts of which appear below:

NIBIA ZABALZAGARAY – professor of literature, single, 24 years of age.

The individual was detained, tortured and killed, all within a period of 10 hours, on Saturday, June 29, 1974.

At 1:30 a.m., three men dressed in military uniforms and two civilians appeared at her room at the Campomar Home for Workers’ Children in Montevideo (she was a native of the Department of Colonia). They interrogated her as to her political convictions and left with her at 3:00 a.m. and refused to reveal their identity and the place to which they were taking her.

Ten hours later, those in charge of the residence received a phone call informing them that Nibia Zabalzagaray had died and that they should inform some member of the family so that the latter might claim her body at the Military Hospital. Her uncles appeared there and were informed that Nibia was dead on arrival at the Hospital, and that her personal effects and her clothing (she was nude) should be claimed at the barracks of the Engineers Battalion No 5 and Transmissions Service (Camino Casavalle, Montevideo).

The death certificate, issued by Dr José Alejandro Mautone, attributed the death to suicide by hanging.

The relatives were denied the necessary authorization to conduct another autopsy. The corpse, however, underwent an external examination by experts, the results of which contradicted the official ruling.

The true cause of her death is asphyxiation through application of the torture known as the “dry submarine” (application of a plastic bag on the head, thereby preventing breathing) or cardiac arrest under torture.

No judicial action was taken as a result of the death of Nibia Zabalzagaray. No official received any military disciplinary punishment.

The Commission, in a note date October 24, 1975, forwarded to the Government of Uruguay the pertinent parts of the additional information provided by the claimant, and requested that the Government provide the following information:

b) A copy of the legal record and actions taken during the proceedings that were closed by the intervening judge on August 2, 1974, ‘in the absence of proof of any illegality,’ as stated in the corresponding part of the note from Your Excellency’s Government of July 12 of this year.

c) A copy of the autopsy on the corpse of Miss Nibia Zabalzagaray.

The Government of Uruguay, in a note dated May 18, 1976, refused to provide the information specified in the foregoing paragraph;

To date, the Government of Uruguay has still not provided the Commission either a copy of the actions taken during the proceedings or a copy of the autopsy on the corpse of Miss Nibia Zabalzagaray; and

From the information provided by the Government itself, it is concluded that no other proceeding or internal remedy is pending decision,


1. To declare that all available information leads to the presumption that the cause of death of Miss Nibia Zabalzagaray, who was arrested by authorities and died ten hours after her arrest while in the custody of authorities, was a consequence of acts of violence she experienced during her detention.

2. To point out to the Government of Uruguay that the events denounced constitute a serious violation of the right to life (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man).

3. To recommend to the Government: a) that it order a thorough and impartial investigation to determine the true cause of the death denounced and, in accordance with Uruguayan laws, punish the individual or individuals responsible, should it be proven that a murder has been committed; b) that it advise the Commission of the measures taken to implement the recommendations contained in the above section within a period of no more than thirty days.

4. To forward this resolution to the Government of Uruguay and to claimants.

5. To include this resolution in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization (Article 9 (bis), c, iii of the Statute) if the Government has not advised the Commission of the measures it has taken to conduct the investigation recommended under operative paragraph 3 within a thirty-day period.

Adopted at meeting Nº 559th, January 30, 1978 (45th Session) and forwarded to the Government of Uruguay on February 21, 1978.

–Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Decision on Case 1870, January 20, 1978
–The Spanish text is found here.

While President Jimmy Carter signed the Ameican Convention on Human Rights in 1978, it has never been ratified by the United States.

Syria and the Long Arc of Justice

40 years is a long time to wait for justice, but at least it gives Bashar al-Assad and the leaders of Syria something to look forward to in their old age. Moreover, as the indictments and trials of Slobodan Milosovich, Radovan Karadzich, and Ratko Mladich suggest, things are changing. Al-Assad and his henchmen may not have to wait so long.

The Trenchant Observer

European court of human rights condemns Macedonia for “extraordinary rendition” to cooperating CIA officials, in Khaled el-Masri case

Friday, December 28th, 2012

News to Note


Nicholas Kulish, “Court Finds Rights Violation in C.I.A. Rendition Case,” New York Times, December 13, 2012.

Amrit Singh, “European court of human rights finds against CIA abuse of Khaled el-Masri; America must now apologise to the German citizen, a victim of mistaken identity who was kidnapped and beaten by the CIA,” The Guardian, December 13, 2012.

Richard Norton-Taylor, “CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, human rights court rules; Landmark European court of human rights judgment says CIA tortured wrongly detained German citizen,” The Guardian, December 13, 2012.

For a detailed description of the judment, see “Macedonian Government responsible for torture, ill-treatment and secret rendition of a man suspected of terrorist ties,” Press Release, issued by the Registrar of the Court, Doc. ECHR 453 (2012) 13.12.2012.

The decision was made by a unanimous vote of the 17-member Grand Chamber of the Court, comprised of the following members:

Nicolas Bratza (United Kingdom), President,
Françoise Tulkens (Belgium),
Josep Casadevall (Andorra),
Dean Spielmann (Luxembourg),
Nina Vajić (Croatia),
Peer Lorenzen (Denmark),
Karel Jungwiert (Czech Republic),
Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijan),
Isabelle Berro-Lefèvre (Monaco),
Luis López Guerra (Spain),
Ledi Bianku (Albania),
Işıl Karakaş (Turkey),
Vincent A. de Gaetano (Malta),
Julia Laffranque (Estonia),
Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (Greece),
Erik Møse (Norway),
Helen Keller (Switzerland)


Whoever President Obama’s nominee to be Director of the CIA may turn out to be, the first question in his or confirmation hearings should be to explain the international law underpinnings of this decision, and their implications for extraordinary renditions, torture, and the use of drones under current U.S. policy.

Obama and U.S. intelligence officials, including John Brennan and others in the White House don’t “get” international law.

The confirmation hearings should make sure that they do. International law is the language of international relations in the world today, not 17th century “just war theory” as Brennan, the President and other national security officials would have us believe.

Any nominee to be the head of the CIA sould know every detail of this case by heart, and be able to explain it to any member of the Senate. Obviously, it will also be important to know precisely what the involvement of the nominee, if any, has been in cases of extraordinary rendition, torture, and the use of kill lists and drones to conduct extrajudicial executions, both inside and outside the theater of the war in Afganistan

The Trenchant Onserver

New authoritarian states in Latin America seek to weaken regional human rights commission and court; Venezuela gives notice of withdrawal from Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

In Latin America, a concerted effort has been underway to weaken the effectiveness of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established under the terms of the American Convention on Human Rights, which most of the countries of the hemisphere have ratified–except for the United States.

In June, the 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which both the Commission and the Court depend on for their budgets and administrative support, was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The host nation was joined by Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua in pushing for reforms that would weaken the timeliness and effectiveness of actions by the Commission and the Court, e.g., by imposing delays on publication of their reports and findings. These efforts and proposed reforms were not approved in Cochabamba, but rather referred back to the Permanent Assembly of the OAS for further study and action.

Still, it is important to recognize clearly the assault on these institutions which is being led by newly authoritarian states in Latin America. They are opposed to these human rights institutions because they themselves appear to violate, and to intend to violate, the fundamental human rights of their citizens.

The case of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela is perhaps the best known. But Evo Morales in Bolivia, the host country, has also led an assault on the independence of the judiciary which, though cloaked in legal formality, is essentially authoritarian in nature. Rafael Correa in Ecuador recently attempted to shut down one of the two leading newspapers in the country, El Universo in Guayaquil, and in the end was only persuaded not to by the threat of action before the Inter-American Commission and the Court. Daniel Ortega, in Nicaragua, who will be remembered as the leader of the Sandinista government of that country in the 1980’s, has reportedly also undertaken actions violating fundamental human rights.

On July 25, Chávez announced that Venezuela would withdraw from the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The withdrawal, unless rescinded, will take effect in one year.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was too busy with her other travels to attend the General Assembly meeting in Cochabamba.

These developments bear close monitoring. For while Washington has been busy fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and terrorists in the Middle East, it has not been giving a high priority to developments in countries in the hemisphere which are culturally and historically much more closely linked to the United States.

For further details, see the following:

Catie Duckworth, “The Dangers of the Hemisphere Operating without the IACHR’s Guidance,” July 25, 2012.

Caracas withdraws from regional rights court; Venezuelan leader counters IACHR ruling with criticism. El País (English), July 26, 2012.

“IACHR Takes Case Involving Venezuela to the Inter-American Court, IACHR Press Release,” July 13, 2012. Details in the Press Release included the following:

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.606, Brothers Landaeta Mejías, Venezuela.
The facts of this case refer to the extrajudicial execution of brothers Igmar Alexander Landaeta Mejías and Eduardo José Landaeta Mejías, 18 and 17 years of age respectively, by officers of the Security and Public Order Corps (Cuerpo de Seguridad y Orden Público) of the state of Aragua. After threats and harassment against them, on November 17, 1996, Igmar Alexander Landaeta Mejías was extrajudicially executed. A month-and-a-half later, on December 30, 1996, his brother, the adolescent Eduardo José Landaeta Mejías, was illegally and arbitrarily deprived of his liberty, and the next day, in the context of a supposed transfer, he was extrajudicially executed.

These facts unfolded in a more general context of extrajudicial executions in Venezuela, with special incidence in the State of Aragua. The Commission has closely monitored this situation through different mechanisms. In particular, the Commission has referred to this problematic situation in its 2003 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela; in the annual reports corresponding to 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008; and in its 2009 Report on Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela.

The case was sent to the IA Court HR on June 10, 2012, because the Commission considered that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits. In that report, the Inter-American Commission recommended the State to conduct a complete, impartial, effective, and timely investigation of the human rights violations described in the report, in order to establish and impose punishment for the intellectual and material responsibility for the facts described; to conduct these investigations in such a way as to establish the links between each of the events covered in this report, as well as between those events and the more general context of violence andextrajudicial executions committed by the regional police; to provide appropriate administrative, disciplinary, and criminal measures to address the actions and omissions of the State officials who contributed to justice denied and impunity surrounding the facts in this case; to make adequate reparations for the human rights violations in material and moral terms; andto provide mechanisms to prevent repetition, including training programs directed to the Aragua State Police on international human rights standards and with respect to children and adolescents, among others.

–Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Press Release, July 12, 2012.

Jim Wyss, “OAS rights body slammed at annual meeting; The Organization of American States’ human rights commission came under siege at the General Assembly, saying the body needs to reform or risk being replaced,” The Miami Herald, June 5, 2012.

Wyss reported that the attack on the IACHR came mainly from Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. He also noted that at the meeting, “Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua announced they are pulling out of a regional defense treaty [“The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance or “Rio Treaty”, also known by its Spanish acronym “TIAR”), which considers an armed attack against one member as an attack against all.”

Juan Forero, “Latin America’s new authoritarians,” Washington Post, July 22, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right handcorner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

Ex-Presidente Jorge Quiroga, sentenciado por injurias, cuestiona democracia y justicia independiente en Bolivia

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

El Observador Incisivo

El ex-presidente de Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, después de ser sentenciado a una pena de dos años y 8 meses de reclusión por injurias contra el Banco Unión, llama la atención a las amenazas a la democracia en Bolivia, diciendo a “El Mercurio” (Santiago) que, “Ya no existe justicia independiente en el país.”

Lo acosan, dice él, “no por hacer algo, sino por hablar. A alguien que en 2008 y 2009 era el líder de la oposición y cuestioné el caso de corrupción más bullado de los últimos años, donde hubo muertos, maletines con dinero retirados de un banco y muchas cosas más”.

Quiroga acusó en febrero de 2009 al Banco Unión (83% de cuya propiedad es estatal) de ser “la lavandería de recursos chavistas, de corrupción y de dinero mal habido para uso del gobierno”, tras el asesinato del empresario Jorge O’Connor, que había retirado un maletín con 450 mil dólares desde el banco.

“Todo Bolivia criticó y habló de eso y, extraña paradoja, ahora el gobierno manda a un banco que es propiedad del Estado a que enjuicie a quien era entonces el líder de la oposición para callarlo, intimidarlo y posiblemente inhabilitarlo”, dice.

–“El gobierno de Piñera debe pronunciarse claramente sobre la situación en Bolivia,” El Mercúrio, el 8 de setiembre de 2010.

Otros artículos e reportajes informan sobre diferentes puntos de vista en relación al caso, y resaltan el hecho de que la condena de Quiroga puede prohibirlo a ser candidato para cualquier cargo publico.

El gobierno de Evo Morales, por su parte, viene hablando por más de seis meses de enjuiciar a los ex-presidentes del país, con el efecto aparente, entre otros, de quitarles la posibilidad de actuar de forma enérgica en el campo político.

El País (Madrid), en un Editorial del 20 de marzo de 2010, observó:

La Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional de Bolivia está tramitando una nueva Ley de Juicios de Responsabilidades que permitirá reactivar varios procesos contra algunos ex mandatarios del país, acusados de cometer diferentes delitos contra el Estado…

Morales está utilizando procedimientos que chocan frontalmente con las exigencias mínimas de un Estado de derecho. Poco antes de que se debatiera la nueva norma que sentará en el banquillo a tres ex presidentes -Jorge Quiroga (2001-2002), Carlos Mesa (2003-2005) y Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé (2005-2006)-, la arrolladora mayoría parlamentaria del MAS, el partido de Morales, aprobó una ley que ha permitido al presidente designar a 18 miembros (de un total de 26) del Poder Judicial, de manera interina y hasta diciembre. Mientras tanto, el vicepresidente Álvaro García Linera ratificó al fiscal general, pese a que había agotado su mandato. Las acusaciones que pesan sobre los ex presidentes Quiroga y Mesa tienen que ver con la firma de contratos petroleros con multinacionales que se llevaron a cabo cuando gobernaban. A Rodríguez Veltzé se le quiere juzgar por “sometimiento a dominio extranjero y espionaje”, al haber encargado durante su mandato a EE UU la destrucción de 41 misiles del Ejército boliviano.

El hecho de que la mayor parte de los responsables de las instancias por las que pasarán los procesos, desde el fiscal general a la Corte Suprema, hayan sido nombrados por el Gobierno deslegitima la iniciativa presuntamente justiciera de Evo Morales. Pero con un 64% de votos y un 70% de popularidad, el presidente boliviano tiene la fuerza suficiente para ignorar los fundamentos de la democracia, violar la Constitución y, de paso, desembarazarse de sus enemigos políticos…

–El País, Editorial, el 20 de marzo de 2010

Relaciónes entre el movimiento verde y los defensores de los derechos humanos

Un aspecto interesante de estos hechos es su impacto potencial sobre las aspiraciones del presidente Morales para jugar un papel de liderazgo en el movimiento verde mundial.

Muchos de los que apoyan el movimiento verde suelen a la vez luchar por la defensa de los derechos humanos y el estado de derecho. Por consiguiente, las alegaciones del ex-presidente Quiroga, de ser confirmadas, así como las actuaciones con respecto a los ex-presidentes en el futuro, podrían tener repercusiones amplias e inesperadas.

El Observador Incisivo
(The trenchant Observer)


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