Orlando Edgardo Olivares Muñoz y Otros, Venezuela

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the report.


63. The settled case law of the inter-American system has established that the State assumes a special position as guarantor of the rights of persons deprived of liberty. In consequence, “the State has the obligation to take the necessary measures to protect and ensure the right to life and to personal integrity of those deprived of liberty and to abstain, in any circumstances, from acting in a way that leads to a violation of their life and integrity.”

65. Along these lines, “whenever a person is deprived of liberty in a normal state of health and later emerges with health issues, the State must provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation for this situation and address allegations of its responsibility with adequate evidence.” Thus, the absence of a satisfactory explanation leads to the presumption of State responsibility for the injuries suffered by a person who has been in the custody of State agents. This is obviously also applicable to situations in which an individual dies while in State custody.

67. The State must “supervise that [its] police forces, which are attributed the legitimate use of force, respect the right to life of those under their jurisdiction.” In this regard, State security forces can only use lethal weapons when “strictly inevitable to protect a life” and when less extreme measures are ineffective. The use of force by security forces “must respect criteria of legitimate reasons, need, […] and proportionality.” Likewise, “any use of force that is not strictly necessary owing to the behavior of the person detained constitutes an attack on human dignity.”

68. In the context of maintaining public order within prisons, the Court has established that the State must use force “in accordance with and in application of domestic legislation in ensuring public order, as long as this legislation and the actions taken when applying it are compatible, at the same time, to the applicable human rights protection norms.” In this sense, State power is not limitless.

71. Along with this, there is evidence both from the autopsies—which found that several inmates died from bullet wounds to the head with trajectories that went from the back to front—as well as the inmates who witnessed the facts and the Public Prosecutor and State itself that the deaths of the seven deceased inmates “could perfectly be characterized as extralegal executions” and were accompanied by severe beatings and mistreatment of the deceased individuals prior to their death, as well as the other inmates.

73. In conclusion, the Commission observes that the State has not provided a definitive explanation for the deaths and injuries of those in its custody that could rebut the presumption of international responsibility. In addition, there are multiple indications that, taken together and given the failure to properly clarify the facts, lead to the conclusion that the use of force was illegitimate, unnecessary, and disproportionate.


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