IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Brazil

June 1, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on November 30, 2022, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with regard to Brazil, in a case concerning the conditions of detention of Chilean citizen Mauricio Hernández Norambuena in the São Paulo state and federal prison system.

On February 1, 2002, Mauricio Hernández Norambuena was caught in the act and arrested in Brazil. He was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. The rights violations alleged in this case refer to the conditions of detention the victim faced over four years with a "differentiated disciplinary regime" (RDD), which involved detention in isolation, with limited visits and time outside the cell.

The Commission noted that lengthy isolation periods like the one the victim was exposed to are incompatible with the American Convention. Formally, this regime may be applied for 180–360 days and may be extended, but it went on for too long for Mauricio Hernández Norambuena.

The State failed to prove that this was an exceptional measure and to explain why this regime was adopted in this case. No circumstances linked to security or to the rehabilitation of the convict were cited as reasons to adopt this regime.

While it was noted that isolation might have been imposed for disciplinary reasons, the victim did not have access to the safeguards of due process and lacked an effective remedy to restrict isolation, while the serious impact of this regime on his rights was also not taken into consideration.

Based on these considerations, the IACHR concluded that the State of Brazil was responsible for violations of the rights held in Articles 5.1 and 5.2 (right to humane treatment), 8.1 (right to a fair trial), and 25.1 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention, in accordance with Articles 1.1 and 2 of the Convention, regarding Mauricio Hernández Norambuena.

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

  1. Provide full material and immaterial reparations to the victim.
  2. Adopt any measures necessary to ensure non-recurrence of the violations mentioned in the Merits Report, particularly the following:
    1. Reform the differentiated disciplinary regime to ensure it reflects the applicable inter-American standards.
    2. Provide adequate training for judicial officers concerning the restrictions that apply to isolation measures and concerning the access to justice of foreigners who are deprived of liberty, in order to ensure equality before the law regardless of whether they reside in the country legally.

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

No. 108/23

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