Miguel Castro-Castro Prison v. Peru
Peru, Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Miguel Castro-Castro Prison v. Peru

DATE 25-11-2006DOWNLOAD LEGAL DECISION

Judges:

Sergio García Ramírez

Sergio García Ramírez

Alirio Abreu Burelli

Alirio Abreu Burelli

Antônio A. Cançado Trindade

Antônio A. Cançado Trindade

Cecilia Medina Quiroga

Cecilia Medina Quiroga

Manuel E. Ventura Robles

Manuel E. Ventura Robles

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Topics:

Intersectional DiscriminationInternational Gender Crimes People Under State Care

Related standards:

American Convention on Human Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica. Article 8

RELATED STANDARDS

American Convention on Human Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica. Article 8

1. Every person has the right to a hearing, with due guarantees and within a reasonable time, by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal, previously established by law, in the substantiation of any accusation of a criminal nature made against him or for the determination of his rights and obligations of a civil, labor, fiscal, or any other nature. 2. Every person accused of a criminal offense has the right to be presumed innocent so long as his guilt has not been proven according to law. During the proceedings, every person is entitled, with full equality, to the following minimum guarantees: a. the right of the accused to be assisted without charge by a translator or interpreter, if he does not understand or does not speak the language of the tribunal or court; b. prior notification in detail to the accused of the charges against him; c. adequate time and means for the preparation of his defense; d. the right of the accused to defend himself personally or to be assisted by legal counsel of his own choosing, and to communicate freely and privately with his counsel; e. the inalienable right to be assisted by counsel provided by the state, paid or not as the domestic law provides, if the accused does not defend himself personally or engage his own counsel within the time period established by law; f. the right of the defense to examine witnesses present in the court and to obtain the appearance, as witnesses, of experts or other persons who may throw light on the facts; g. the right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself or to plead guilty; and h. the right to appeal the judgment to a higher court. 3. A confession of guilt by the accused shall be valid only if it is made without coercion of any kind. 4. An accused person acquitted by a nonappealable judgment shall not be subjected to a new trial for the same cause. 5. Criminal proceedings shall be public, except insofar as may be necessary to protect the interests of justice.
American Convention on Human Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica. Article 25

RELATED STANDARDS

American Convention on Human Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica. Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to simple and prompt recourse, or any other effective recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts that violate his fundamental rights recognized by the constitution or laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such violation may have been committed by persons acting in the course of their official duties. 2. The States Parties undertake: a. to ensure that any person claiming such remedy shall have his rights determined by the competent authority provided for by the legal system of the state; b. to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy; and c. to ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.
American Convention on Human Rights, San José of Costa Rica Pact. Article 1

RELATED STANDARDS

American Convention on Human Rights, San José of Costa Rica Pact. Article 1

1. Los Estados Partes en esta Convención se comprometen a respetar los derechos y libertades reconocidos en ella y a garantizar su libre y pleno ejercicio a toda persona que esté sujeta a su jurisdicción, sin discriminación alguna por motivos de raza, color, sexo, idioma, religión, opiniones políticas o de cualquier otra índole, origen nacional o social, posición económica, nacimiento o cualquier otra condición social. 2. Para los efectos de esta Convención, persona es todo ser humano.
Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture Article 6

RELATED STANDARDS

Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture Article 6

In accordance with the terms of Article 1, the States Parties shall take effective measures to prevent and punish torture within their jurisdiction. The States Parties shall ensure that all acts of torture and attempts to commit torture are offenses under their criminal law and shall make such acts punishable by severe penalties that take into account their serious nature. The States Parties likewise shall take effective measures to prevent and punish other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment within their jurisdiction.
Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture Article 1

RELATED STANDARDS

Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture Article 1

The State Parties undertake to prevent and punish torture in accordance with the terms of this Convention.
Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Erradicate Violence Against Women, "Convention of Belém do Pará" Article 7

RELATED STANDARDS

Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Erradicate Violence Against Women, "Convention of Belém do Pará" Article 7

The States Parties condemn all forms of violence against women and agree to pursue, by all appropriate means and without delay, policies to prevent, punish and eradicate such violence and undertake to: a. refrain from engaging in any act or practice of violence against women and to ensure that their authorities, officials, personnel, agents, and institutions act in conformity with this obligation; b. apply due diligence to prevent, investigate and impose penalties for violence against women; c. include in their domestic legislation penal, civil, administrative and any other type of provisions that may be needed to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women and to adopt appropriate administrative measures where necessary; d. adopt legal measures to require the perpetrator to refrain from harassing, intimidating or threatening the woman or using any method that harms or endangers her life or integrity, or damages her property; e. take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to amend or repeal existing laws and regulations or to modify legal or customary practices which sustain the persistence and tolerance of violence against women; f. establish fair and effective legal procedures for women who have been subjected to violence which include, among others, protective measures, a timely hearing and effective access to such procedures; g. establish the necessary legal and administrative mechanisms to ensure that women subjected to violence have effective access to restitution, reparations or other just and effective remedies; and h. adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to this Convention.
Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture Article 8

RELATED STANDARDS

Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture Article 8

The States Parties shall guarantee that any person making an accusation of having been subjected to torture within their jurisdiction shall have the right to an impartial examination of his case. Likewise, if there is an accusation or well-grounded reason to believe that an act of torture has been committed within their jurisdiction, the States Parties shall guarantee that their respective authorities will proceed properly and immediately to conduct an investigation into the case and to initiate, whenever appropriate, the corresponding criminal process. After all the domestic legal procedures of the respective State and the corresponding appeals have been exhausted, the case may be submitted to the international fora whose competence has been recognized by that State.
American Convention on Human Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica. Article 5. Right to Humane Treatment

RELATED STANDARDS

American Convention on Human Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica. Article 5. Right to Humane Treatment

1. Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected. 2. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. 3. Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the criminal. 4. Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons. 5. Minors while subject to criminal proceedings shall be separated from adults and brought before specialized tribunals, as speedily as possible, so that they may be treated in accordance with their status as minors. 6. Punishments consisting of deprivation of liberty shall have as an essential aim the reform and social readaptation of the prisoners.

WHY IT MATTERS:

The decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are binding on State parties to the American Convention on Human Rights that have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court.

In this decision, the Court examined the violations of Convention rights for the first time in conjunction with the Convention Belem do Para and the Inter American Convention to prevent and punish torture. This is an important stop in ensuring a holistic protection of the human rights of women within the Inter-American system given that the competence of the Court to ensure compliance with the Belem do Para Convention is not expressly provided for. Following this decision, obligation on States to comply with the Convention is no longer in doubt.

The decision is an important international precedent in its examination of the differential impact on violence and torture perpetrated against women and men and in its evaluation of the particular seriousness of acts of torture, including sexual violence, which are used to humiliate women. The Court carried out this analysis not only because the principal victims in the case were women but also because the violence was directed at the women based on the specificity of their sex and gender.

The focus of the effects of torture on pregnant women is also important given the lack of attention that this has been given in the past despite the fact that crimes against humanity have often been perpetrated against pregnant women. The special protection of pregnant women is one of the oldest in international humanitarian law and international law more generally.

In May 1992, during Operation Removal 1, the police and special units of the Peruvian army bombed a maximum security prison facility holding 135 women suspected by the Fujimori government of being terrorists. The surviving victims were then subjected to various forms of torture and sexual violence. The Inter American Court of Human Rights found that the State of Peru had violated the right to life, the right to personal integrity and due process rights. It also found that these infringements of human rights constitute crimes against humanity which could not remain unpunished given the obligation on States to fight impunity. For the first time, the Court expressly dealt with violence against women and applied the Belem do Para Convention, which enumerates the different forms of violence which differentially impact on men and women such as sexual violence and torture.
For three days from May 6, 1992, the police and special units of the Peruvian army, bombarded blocks 1A and 4B of a maximum security prison for men, called Miguel Castro Castro. 135 women and 50 men were also being detained in the prison at the time for alleged acts of terrorism, treason or for being suspected members of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). The attack, known as ´Operation Removal 1´ was carried out with the supposed objective of moving the internees from the prison to a maximum security prison for women in Chorrillos. However, the real objective of the attack was in fact to kill the women detained in block 1A given that these women had been identified by the Fujimori government as ´terrorists´. During the Operation, block 4B, which held male detainees, was also bombarded to prevent the women fleeing to this block. In the end, 41 persons were killed and 185 injured. The surviving female detainees were subsequently subjected to various forms of torture and sexual violence.
Article 4: The Right to Life
 

A State´s obligation to guarantee security and to maintain public order, especially within the prison system, is not absolute and States must carry out this obligation in conformity with respect and protection for human rights. Most importantly, the State must ensure that their agents and security services respect the right to life of those in their custody. The Court examined the evidence and found that the Operation was clearly an intentional massacre planned to eliminate the detained women in the context of systematic violations of human rights for political reasons. The Court found that the State was directly responsible for violations of the right to life of the 41 persons murdered during the attack. 

 

Article 5 Right to Humane Treatment


For the first time in the Court´s history, the Court used the Belem do Para Convention to determine the content of humane treatment. The Court found that the Convention was applicable because it clarifies and complements the States parties’ obligations under the American Convention. The Court also recognised for the first time, that men and women experience torture and suffering in different ways, given that there may be different objectives or forms of torture depending on the sex of the person. The Court considered a document by a third party which stated that ´there is no torture which does not take the sex of the victim into account´. Operation Removal not only had the objective of eliminating or injuring the women, it was also intended to send a message to society in general. 

Although the Court considered that all of the acts of torture and cruel treatment that persons are submitted to are of a serious nature, it found that it is particularly serious when there are women involved, given that the effects of the torture can have different consequences. The Court considered the cases of pregnant women who were interned and found that they had suffered particularly serious violations of their fundamental rights. The Court held that forcing pregnant women to lie face down on their stomachs, to constantly mistreatment them both physically and mentally directly impacted their sexuality and motherhood. The Court took this into consideration in awarding greater damages as reparation for the suffering caused by the State.  


The Court also found that the forced nudity to which the detained women were subjected was a violation of the personal dignity of the victims and constituted sexual violence in and of itself. The women were forced to remain naked when they were transferred to public hospitals and were permanently guarded and observed by male guards. 


 

The Court followed international jurisprudence and the Belem do Para Convention in finding that sexual violence includes acts of a sexual nature which may or may not include penetration or physical contact of any kind. In this specific case, one of the detained women was subjected to a vaginal examination during which she was penetrated by the doctor’s fingers. The Court found that the act constituted rape and that this could be defined as acts of vaginal or anal penetration, without the consent of the victim, with the body of the aggressor or with objects, or equally forced oral penetration with the penis of the aggressor. The Court found that the act also constituted torture. 


With regards to violations of humane treatment proceeding from the conditions in detention previous to the attack, the Court highlighted the injury and suffering experienced generally by the women and in particular, the pregnant women. The Court found that the incommunicado detention of the women was a form of torture, which had differing impacts on the women, since many of the women who were interned were mothers who were not able to communicate with their young children. The Court also noted the negative effect that this had on babies and young children who were separated from their mothers.

The Court also noted that additional suffering was caused to the women in detention since their physiological needs were not taken into consideration. The Court noted that under international standards, detained women must be provided with the medical attention when pregnant and have their basic post and pre natal care provided. Furthermore, facilities, services and materials must be available for women with young children or for women who are menstruating.


Article 8.1 Fair Trial and Article 25 Judicial Protection


The Court considered that to complete the examination of violations of the rights to due process and judicial protection, this had to be done in light of Article 7.b of the Belem do Para Convention.

The Court found that the time delay between the facts and the beginning of the criminal investigation was unreasonable given the obligation on States to fight impunity especially when violations of fundamental rights are perpetrated by State agents. The lack of investigation therefore constituted a violation of right of access to justice of the victims and their families.

The Court found that the violation of the right of access to justice and due process was of extraordinary magnitude in this case given that the massacre and the tortures were committed by State agents as crimes against humanity, for which States have specific obligations to end impunity and ensure accountability.  

The State of Peru, before, during and after ´Operation Removal´ violated the rights to life, humane treatment, fair trial and judicial protection of the persons detained in the Castro Castro Prison and of their families. The State also failed to comply with its obligation to prevent and prosecute torture and violence against women.

The Court unanimously found that : 

1. The State should effectively investigate the facts and identify and punish those responsible.

2. The State should adopt the necessary measures to ensure that all the detainees who were killed in the attack are identified and that their remains are delivered to their families. 

3. The State should carry out an act in public to acknowledge their responsibility for the violations. 

4. The State should design and implement education programmes on human rights for State agents and security forces, using international legal standards applicable on the treatment of detained persons. 

5. Within 18 months, the State of Peru should provide the Court with a report on all of the measures adopted to comply with the decision.

Inter - American Comission on Human Rights.
Inter - American Comission on Human Rights.
Peruvian prisoners in Miguel Castro Castro Prison,1992.
Peruvian prisoners in Miguel Castro Castro Prison,1992.
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Miguel Castro Castro Prison 1992. (Only in spanish).
The Case of Miguel Castro Castro Prison v. Peru.
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