REPORT Nº 47/08
PETITION 864-05
ADMISSIBILITY
LUIS GONZALO “RICHARD” VÉLEZ RESTREPO AND FAMILY
COLOMBIA
July 24, 2008
I.

SUMMARY

1. On July 29, 2005, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter, “the InterAmerican Commission” or “the IACHR”) received a complaint lodged by Mr. Luis Gonzalo Vélez
Restrepo – also known as Richard Vélez – and Aracelly Román Amariles (hereinafter “the
petitioners”), on their own behalf and that of their children, Mateo Vélez Román and Juliana
Vélez Román (hereinafter “the children” and jointly “the Vélez family,” “the petitioners,” or
“the alleged victims”), claiming the responsibility of agents of the Republic of Colombia
(hereinafter, “the State” or “Colombia”) for an August 29, 1996, attack which occurred in the
municipality of Morelia, Caquetá department, and was allegedly perpetrated by the National
Colombian Army against Mr. Luis Gonzalo Vélez Restrepo as he filmed a peasant protest
against the destruction of coca crops.
2. The petitioners claim that the attack left Mr. Vélez Restrepo unconscious and he was
hospitalized with a perforated liver, severe blood loss, severe damage to one testicle, several
broken ribs, and multiple injuries to the abdomen and legs. They further claim that following
the attack, Mr. Vélez Restrepo and his family received death threats, that on October 6, 1997,
Luis Gonzalo Vélez Restrepo was the victim of an “attempted forced disappearance,” and that
neither the attack nor the threats were adequately investigated. They also indicated that as a
result of the alleged events, Mr. Vélez Restrepo had to censor his own work, his professional
life was altered, he had to change his residence within Colombia and later seek asylum in the
United States on October 9, 1997, where his children and wife joined him approximately one
year later.
3. They assert that these events constitute a violation of Articles 4 (right to life), 5 (right to
personal integrity), 7 (right to personal liberty), 13 (right to freedom of thought and
expression), 11 (right to honor), 17 (protection of the family), 19 (rights of the child), 22
(freedom of movement and residence), 8 (right to a fair trial) and 25 (judicial protection) of
the American Convention in relation to Articles 1(1) and 2 of the Convention.
4. In relation to the admissibility of the complaint, the petitioners claim that the Colombian
state has failed to fulfill its duty to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of the
violations since the domestic remedies used were ineffective to remedy the infringed legal
situation, which they assert constitutes one of the exceptions to the requirement of prior
exhaustion of domestic remedies set forth in Article 46.2 of the American Convention.
5. The State, for its part, claimed that the petitioners’ complaint does not satisfy the
admissibility requirements set forth in Article 46 of the ACHR concerning the existence of
international litispendence, since the case is still being processed before the United Nations
Human Rights Committee. The State further claimed a failure to respect the time frame for
presenting the petition, for which it requested that the petition be declared inadmissible in
accordance with the provisions of paragraphs 1(b) and (c) of Article 46 of the Convention.
6. After examining the positions of the parties, the Commission concludes that it is competent
to decide the complaint lodged by the petitioners and that the petition is admissible under
Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention. As a result, the Commission decides to notify
the parties of its decision and to proceed to examine the merits of the alleged violations of the
rights to personal integrity (Article 5), freedom of thought and expression (Article 13),
protection of the family (Article 17.1), the rights of the child (Article 19), freedom of
movement and residence (Article 22), a fair trial (Article 8) and judicial protection (Article 25)
of the American Convention in relation to the general obligations enshrined in Articles 1(1) and
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