REPORT Nº 11/05 1
PETITION 708/03
ADMISSIBILITY
GREGORIA HERMINIA, SERAPIO CRISTIAN, AND JULIA INES CONTRERAS
EL SALVADOR
February 23, 2005

I.

SUMMARY

1. On September 4, 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the
Inter-American Commission” or “the IACHR”) received a complaint submitted by the Asociación
Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos (Asociación Pro-Búsqueda)(hereinafter “the
petitioners”), in which it is alleged that the Republic of El Salvador (“the State”) is responsible
internationally for the forced disappearance of the children Gregoria Herminia Contreras,
Serapio Cristián Contreras, and Julia Inés Contreras, and for the subsequent failure to
investigate and make reparation for those acts. The petitioners argue that the facts alleged
constitute violations of several rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights
(“the American Convention”), namely: the right to humane treatment (Article 5); the right to
personal liberty (Article 7); the right to judicial guarantees (Article 8); the right to protection
of the family (Article 17); the right to a name (Article 18); the rights of the child (Article 19);
and the right to judicial protection (Article 25), all in violation of the general obligation to
respect and ensure the rights (Article 1(1)).
2. According to the complaint, on August 25, 1982, the siblings Gregoria Herminia, Serapio
Cristián, and Julia Inés Contreras, ages 4 years, 1 year 8 months, and 4 months, respectively,
were captured by members of the military from the Fifth Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces
of El Salvador during an operation carried out at the place known as “La Conacastada” in the
hamlet (cantón) of San Juan Buenavista, jurisdiction of Tecoluca, department of San Vicente.
Since then, almost 23 years after the facts, the children’s whereabouts are unknown. All the
efforts made before the authorities to clarify the facts, including a criminal complaint and a
writ of habeas corpus, have come to naught.
3. The State argues that the petitioners filed a writ of habeas corpus in 2002 (having been able
to do so at any previous moment). The State indicates that in a judgment of February 17,
2003, that writ was found admissible, and the Attorney General of the Republic was ordered to
carry out the respective actions to give effect to the protection of the minors’ personal liberty.
The State indicates that the Office of the Attorney General initiated the respective
investigations and that the investigation is taking its course and should be taken further to
determine the circumstances. It also argues that during the internal armed conflict it was
possible to file the complaint reporting the disappearances to the International Committee of
the Red Cross, and that this was never done in relation to the minors. Accordingly, it asks that
the IACHR declare the case inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.
4. Without prejudging on the merits, the IACHR concludes in this report that the case is
admissible, for it meets the requirements set forth in Articles 46 and 47 of the American
Convention. The Inter-American Commission decides to give notice of the decision to the
parties and to continue analyzing the merits with respect to the alleged violations of the
American Convention, to publish this decision, and to include it in its Annual Report to the
General Assembly of the OAS.
II.

PROCESSING BEFORE THE COMMISSION

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Commissioner Florentín Meléndez, of Salvadoran nationality, did not participate in the consideration of or vote on
this case, in keeping with Article 17(2) of the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure.

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