TOTAL PECUNIARY DAMAGES IN THE CASE OF THE INJURED INMATES
TOTAL PECUNIARY DAMAGES
C) NON-PECUNIARY DAMAGES 295. The Court will now consider the adverse consequences of the facts in this case that are neither financial nor asset-related. Non-pecuniary damages can include the pain and suffering caused to the immediate victims and their next of kin, the harm done to the values that the individuals cherish most, as well as non-pecuniary changes in the circumstances of the victim or the victim’s family. As no exact monetary equivalent can be assigned to non-pecuniary damages, to fully redress the harm done to the victims non-pecuniary damages can only be compensated in two ways: first, by paying a sum of money or providing goods or services that have a monetary value, which the Court determines using its discretion and in equity; second, by other means whose purpose is to exact from the State a commitment to efforts to prevent similar events from ever happening again.
296. The Commission reasoned that in order to determine moral damages in the instant case, the Court should consider such factors as the seriousness of the violations and the emotional suffering experienced by the victims and their next of kin. The Commission argued that the loss of a loved one was not the only suffering that caused non-pecuniary damages; it was also the inhumane detention conditions, the offensive treatment and the ever-present sense of vulnerability that one felt because of being housed in adult prisons, because of the fires and because one lacked the means to defend oneself properly. All these conditions caused extreme pain and suffering, not just to the victims but to their next of kin as well, who shared their loved ones’ suffering. The Commission therefore petitioned the Court:
a) to order the State to pay, in equity, moral damages to the next of kin of the inmates who died. The Commission also asked that the Court take into account the following: the suffering caused by the kind of painfully slow death that burns sustained in a fire can cause; the suffering the next of kin experienced knowing that their children were in the custody of the State when they died of burns sustained in the fires; the inmates who were injured in each of the fires; and each and every inmate interned in the Center, because of the suffering, anguish and indignities they were forced to endure;
b) to order the establishment of a special reparations fund for the victims of the Center, in consideration of the massive breach of rights that the center’s very existence caused. The Commission maintained that the purpose of that fund should be to finance educational programs, job-training programs and psychological and medical assistance for all the children and adolescents who were unlawfully and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty at the center; and
c) in the case of the victims who were housed at the ‘Panchito López’ facility between August 14, 1996 and July 25, 2001, who were neither injured nor killed in the fires and were not sent to adult prisons, to order the State to compensate them for the inhuman conditions they were forced to endure during their time at the Center. Because it is difficult to quantify this reparation in monetary terms, the Commission asked the Court to fix an amount in equity for each victim.
Pleadings of the representatives 297. The representatives asserted that the pain and suffering of the victims and their next of kin were evident. They reasoned as follows:
a) the children endured the inhumane detention conditions, the indignities of their treatment and the constant threat of danger, as they were housed in adult penal institutions. They also suffered the after-effects of the successive fires in which inmates were injured and burned. The representatives therefore asked the Court to order, in equity, a sum to compensate for the “severe psychological impact,” the “protracted and complex trauma”, and the devastating consequences that all the children experienced due to the detention conditions, torture and abuse, which left them with feelings of bitterness, resentment, humiliation, depression, handicapped, a sense of powerlessness, vulnerability and violence;
b) the State neither conducted an inquiry nor promptly punished those responsible for the human rights violations that occurred; and
c) because of the difficulties in making contact with the former inmates and their next of kin, the representatives were of the view that the amount that the Court ordered should take into account the kinship with the children who were detained at the center. In the case of Teofista Domínguez, Felipa Valdez, Dionicio Vega and Rosalía Figueredo, the representatives asked the Court to fix compensation based on their testimony before the Court.