IACHR refers case on Mexico to the Inter-American Court

June 1, 2021

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Washington, D.C. - On May 1, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed the case of Jorge Marcial Tzompaxtle Tecpile et al., regarding Mexico, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The case refers to the illegal and arbitrary detention of Jorge Marcial Tzompaxtle Tecpile, Gerardo Tzompaxtle Tecpile and Gustavo Robles López, the application of arraigo and the lack of judicial guarantees in the criminal proceedings against them.

In its Merits Report, the Commission concluded that the victims, who were detained in January 2006 by police officers on a highway between the cities of Veracruz and Mexico City, were detained and searched without a warrant and without being caught in flagrante. The Commission observed that the State did not indicate the existence of objective reasons or parameters that could justify the detention and search. Nor did it refer to legislation establishing the requirement that police authorities account, in writing and before their superiors, for the details of the reasons that give rise to a detention and subsequent search in the absence of a warrant or flagrante delicto. In view of the above, the Commission considered that the detention was illegal and arbitrary, and that the subsequent search of the vehicle constituted an infringement of the right to privacy. It also considered that the victims were not informed of the reasons for their detention nor were they brought promptly before a judicial authority.

On the other hand, the IACHR analyzed the concept of arraigo and its application to the present case, in light of Inter-American standards. The Commission established that the application of the arraigo was a punitive and not a precautionary measure, the imposition of which is not justified in relation to unconvicted persons and even less so with respect to persons who are not even being criminally prosecuted. It also emphasized that in the present case this situation affected the principle of innocence of the victims. The Commission pointed out that the concept of arraigo is contrary to the American Convention and that, in this case, it constituted an arbitrary detention since it did not have a legitimate purpose and did not comply with the requirements of suitability, necessity and proportionality. The Commission also considered that the application of the preventive detention after the arraigo was arbitrary because it was based on alleged indications of responsibility, which even speaks of a presumption of responsibility that has not been rebutted by the accused.

In addition, the Commission observed that the State did not dispute the allegations of the petitioner with respect to the situation of isolation and incommunicado detention that the victims suffered on at least two occasions for seven and a half hours and one and a half days, respectively. The Commission concluded that these events affected the personal integrity of the victims. It also found that, although there was no evidence of unfavorable conditions in the house of arrest or in the prisons where the victims were held, the sum of the violations derived from the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and based on a process without due judicial guarantees also affected their right to psychological integrity.

Finally, the Commission considered that the State violated the right to prior and detailed notification of the charges to the technical defense in the first days after the arrest, since during that time relevant proceedings took place in which evidence was gathered against the victims and the arraigo was ordered.

Based on these considerations, the IACHR concluded that the Mexican State is internationally responsible for the violation of articles 5.1 (right to personal integrity), 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5 and 7.6 (right to personal liberty); 8.1, 8.2, 8.2 b), 8. 2 d), and 8.2 e) (right to judicial guarantees); 11.2 (right to privacy); and 25.1 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to the obligations established in Articles 1.1 and 2 of the same instrument.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State:

  1. Make full reparation to Jorge Marcial Tzompaxtle Tecpile, Gerardo Tzompaxtle Tecpile and the beneficiaries of the deceased Gustavo Robles López, through measures of pecuniary compensation and satisfaction, including compensation for the material and non-material damage caused as a consequence of the violations declared in the report.
  2. To provide, free of charge, immediately and for as long as necessary, physical or mental health treatment to the victims in this case.
  3. Adapt the domestic legal system, including the constitutional and legal norms that maintain the concept of arraigo, to definitively eliminate this concept. While this occurs, ensure that authorities do not apply the arraigo by means of a conventionality control, considering the standards established in the report.
  4. Carry out the appropriate disciplinary, administrative, or other procedures, to investigate diligently, impartially and within a reasonable period of time the facts related to the human rights violations stated in the report, with the purpose of clarifying the multiple irregularities analyzed, establishing the respective responsibilities and imposing the corresponding sanctions.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 141/21