REPORT Nº 31/01
CASE 12.132
February 23, 2001


1. On February 16, 1999, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the
Inter-American Commission” or “the IACHR”) received a complaint filed by theAsociación ProBúsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos (Asociación Pro-Búsqueda) and the Center for
Justice and International Law (CEJIL) (jointly “the petitioners”), alleging that the Republic of El
Salvador (“the State”) bears international responsibility for the forced disappearance of the
minor sisters Ernestina Serrano Cruz and Erlinda Serrano Cruz and for the subsequent failure to
investigate the matter and provide reparations. The petitioners allege that the events denounced
violate several rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights ("the American
Convention"): the right to life (Article 4); right to personal integrity (Article 5); right to personal
liberty (Article 7); right to a fair trial (Article 8); right to protect the family (Article 17); right to
a name (Article 18); rights of the child (Article 19); and the right to judicial protection, all in
violation of the general duty to respect and guarantee rights (Article 1(1)).
2. The complaint alleges that on June 2, 1982 the sisters Ernestina and Erlinda Serrano Cruz,
ages seven and three respectively, were captured by members of the Salvadoran army’s
Atlacatl Battalion during a raid on the municipality of San Antonio La Cruz, in the Department
of Chalatenango. The petition indicates that witnesses saw the Serrano Cruz sisters being
transported by military helicopter to the city of Chalatenango, where they were handed over to
Red Cross relief workers and then brought in a Red Cross vehicle to an unknown location.
Eighteen years later, the girls’ whereabouts is still unknown. All steps taken with the
authorities to clarify the events, including a criminal complaint and writ of habeas corpus, have
been fruitless; the petitioners therefore believe that the State is not willing to fulfill its
obligation in that regard.
3. The State maintains that the authorities learned of the kidnapping of the minors when their
mother, María Victoria Cruz Franco, filed a report on April 30, 1993. According to witness
statements and to Mrs. Cruz Franco, if the Army removed the minors, they should have been
immediately handed over to the Red Cross for protection.However, the judicial proceedings
against members of the Atlacatl Battalion for the alleged kidnapping (sustracción del cuidado
personal) of the minors are still open in the Court of First Instance of Chalatenango. The State
argues that the investigation is not closed and must be continued further to determine to
whom the minors were given. The State therefore requests that the IACHR find the case
inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.
4. Without prejudging the merits of the case, the IACHR concludes in this report that the case
is admissible since it meets the requirements set forth in Articles 46 and 47 of the American
Convention. The Inter-American Commission decided to notify the parties of that decision and
to continue to examine the merits of the alleged violations of the American Convention.


5. The Inter-American Commission assigned the case Nº 12.132 and on April 14, 1999
requested information from the Salvadoran State on the pertinent parts of the complaint. On
January 19, 2000 the petitioners requested a hearing at the 106th regular session of the
IACHR, but the Commission informed them on February 7, 2000 that this was not possible.
The earlier request for information was reiterated, and the State replied on February 25, 2000.
On March 28, 2000 the petitioners presented observations on the information provided by the


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