Case of the “Las Dos Erres” Massacre v. Guatemala (Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Judgment (November 27, 2009))

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”) brought a claim against the Republic of Guatemala (the “State”) concerning the Las Dos Erres massacre, in which a group of the Guatemalan armed forces, called “Kaibiles,” attacked a village, beating, raping or killing 251 inhabitants and kidnapping several children. Subsequently, the State reached a settlement with the victims of the event, acknowledging responsibility and providing certain reparations, including medical and psychological treatment, as well as investigation of the incident. The claim alleged that following the disaster, the State had unjustifiably delayed investigating the incident, hindered the subsequent investigation, failed to execute arrest warrants against some alleged participants, and lacked impartiality in investigation and prosecution of individuals involved in the massacre.

Plaintiffs claimed the failure to adequately investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the incident violated Art. 25 (right to judicial protection) and Art. 8 (right to a fair trial) of the American Convention on Human Rights (the “Convention”) together with Art. 1(1) thereof (state’s obligation to respect such rights). Although the State partially accepted the facts alleged by the Plaintiffs, the State denied that its conduct following the incident violated the Convention. The State also argued that the Court lacked competence to decide the claim, as the State’s submission to the Court’s jurisdiction occurred only after the incident.