Leopoldo Garcia Lucero v. Chile

Leopoldo Garcia Lucero was subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, physical and psychological torture and other ill-treatment in Chile under the Pinochet regime. Shortly after the military coup, on 11 September 1973, Mr García was arrested and taken to the National Stadium, the largest detention camp in Santiago, Chile's capital, for the imprisoned, tortured and executed in 1973. Mr García then spent more than a year in other concentration camps. During his imprisonment, he was repeatedly tortured. As a consequence of the beatings, he lost most of his teeth, his face was disfigured and his spine severely damaged. He has been disabled since then. In 1975 Pinochet’s government forcibly expelled him and put on a plane to the United Kingdom, where he received refugee status. Mr García and his family left behind all their relatives, friends and possessions.

REDRESS submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2002 arguing that Mr. Garcia Lucero’s rights under Articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights had been violated as he has not been provided with an effective remedy and full and adequate reparation for what happened to him. The Commission found the case admissible in 2005.  REDRESS had a working group meeting and formal hearing before the Commission in 2008 in order to try to reach a friendly settlement with Chile, but no agreement materialised. In 2011, the Commission sent the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for a hearing. Mr Garcia, his wife and three daughters are victims in the case.

In 2012, REDRESS made submissions to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in particular on the issue of admissibility, as the torture took place before Chile ratified the American Charter on Human Rights. Based on the Charter and the Court's own jurisprudence, REDRESS argued that violations of victims' rights to access justice (investigation, sanctions, adequate reparation) are independent from the so called ‘substantive’ violation of torture. In cases where the Inter-American Court has not been able to establish a substantive violation of article 3 (freedom from torture), for instance due to lack of evidence, it has found procedural violations under articles 3 and 13.

On 14 February 2013, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights specified the modalities of witness (including expert witness) participation in the case.The Court considered Mr García’s case on 20 and 21 March 2013. Mr García testified during the hearing that took place on 20 March.

On 28 August 2013, the Inter-American Court issued its judgment. It ordered Chile to pay Mr. García £ 20,000 in moral damages and ordered it to continue and finalise a criminal investigation “within a reasonable time.” It also urged Chile to provide adequate funding to Mr. García to cover the costs of his treatment in the UK for continuing medical and psychological ailments.

On 7 March 2014, Mr García received a formal apology and reparations from the Chilean government at its embassy in London. In doing so, Mr Rodrigo Espinoza, the Chargé D' Affaires of the Embassy of Chile, stated that "saying sorry does not erase physical or psychological pain; neither does it relieve the suffering of relatives and loved ones. However, it is an act of contrition. It makes us confront our shameful past acts, come to repent them, and ensure that they are never repeated."


Photo credit: Fiona Lloyd-Davies

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