Introduction of the Case
1. On May 20, 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission” or “the Inter-American Commission”) filed an application with the Court against the State of Paraguay (hereinafter “the State,” “the respondent State,” or “Paraguay”) concerning a case that had originated with petition No. 11,666, received at the Commission’s Secretariat on August 14, 1996.
2. The Commission filed the application pursuant to Article 61 of the American Convention, seeking a judgment from the Court as to whether the State had violated, in relation to its obligation under Article 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) of the Convention, Article 4 (Right to Life) of that instrument by virtue of the deaths of inmates Elvio Epifanio Acosta Ocampos, Marco Antonio Giménez,2 Diego Walter Valdez, Sergio Daniel Vega Figueredo,3 Sergio David Poletti Domínguez,4 Mario Álvarez Pérez,5 Juan Alcides Román Barrios, Antonio Damián Escobar Morinigo6 and Carlos Raúl de la Cruz,7 all of whom perished as a result of a fire at the Instituto de Reeducación del Menor “Coronel Panchito López” [“Colonel Panchito López” Juvenile Reeducation Institute] (hereinafter “the Center” or “the ‘Panchito López’ Center”), and by virtue of the death of Benito Augusto Adorno, who died of a bullet wound sustained at the Center. The Commission also asked the Court to decide whether the State had violated Article 5 (Right to Humane Treatment) of the American Convention, in relation to its obligation under Article 1(1) thereof, by virtue of the injuries and smoke inhalation that minors Abel Achar Acuña, José Milicades Cañete,8 Ever Ramón Molinas Zárate, Arsenio Joel Barrios Báez,9 Alfredo Duarte Ramos, Sergio Vincent Navarro Moraez, Raúl Esteban Portillo, Ismael Méndez Aranda, Pedro Iván Peña, Osvaldo Daniel Sosa, Walter Javier Riveros Rojas, Osmar López Verón,10 Miguel Coronel,11 César Ojeda,12 Heriberto Zarate, Francisco Noé Andrada, Jorge Daniel Toledo, Pablo Emmanuel Rojas, Sixto Gonzáles Franco,13 Francisco Ramón Adorno, Antonio Delgado, Claudio Coronel Quiroga, Clemente Luis Escobar González,14 Julio César García, José Amado Jara Fernando,15 Alberto David Martínez, Miguel Ángel Martínez, Osvaldo Espinola Mora,16 Hugo Antonio Quintana Vera,17 Juan Carlos Viveros Zarza,18 Eduardo Vera, Ulises Zelaya Flores,19 Hugo Olmedo, Rafael Aquino Acuña,20 Nelson Rodríguez, Demetrio Silguero, Aristides Ramón Ortiz B.21 and Carlos Raúl Romero Giacomo22 sustained in three fires at the Center.
3. The Commission also petitioned the Court to find that the respondent State had violated Articles 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 19 (Rights of the Child), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial) and 25 (Judicial Protection) of the American Convention, all in relation to Article 1(1) thereof, to the detriment of all juveniles incarcerated at the Center at any time in the period between August 14, 1996 and July 25, 2001, and those juvenile inmates subsequently remanded to the country’s adult prisons.
4. The Commission’s contention was that the “Panchito López’ Center embodied a system that was the antithesis of every international standard pertaining to the incarceration of juveniles, given the allegedly grossly inadequate conditions under which the children were interned. Specifically, those conditions involved a combination of: overpopulation, overcrowding, lack of sanitation, inadequate infrastructure, and a prison guard staff that was both too small and poorly trained.
5. According to the Commission, after each of the three fires, all or some of the alleged victims were remanded to adult prisons in Paraguay; it further alleged that the vast majority of the juveniles transferred to adult prisons were in pretrial detention. To make matters worse, the adult prisons to which they were sent were elsewhere in the country, far from the juveniles’ defense attorneys and families.
6. The Commission also petitioned the Court, pursuant to Article 63 of the Convention, to order the State to ensure the exercise of the violated rights to the alleged victims and their next of kin and to adopt certain measures of pecuniary and non-pecuniary compensation.
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