Duty to Investigate Political Killing Case Brought in IACHR against Honduras

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

Ángel Pacheco León was killed when campaigning for a seat in the National Congress of Honduras in 2001. His family, in collaboration with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has recently filed a claim with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against Honduras. The case regards the killing of Pacheco León, as well as the impunity that followed.

The IACHR filed the claim on the basis that the government of Honduras failed to fulfil its duty to investigate the murder with due diligence. Specifically, the case involved serious irregularities in investigation, a failure to pursue logical lines of inquiry, and a failure to investigate surrounding reprisals and pressures. Despite evidence which pointed to the state being involved, these lines of inquiry were not pursued. With the combination of the evidence incriminating the State and the failure to comply with its duty to investigate, the Commission found that it is possible to hold the State responsible for what happened to Pacheco León.

The specific rights engaged in this case are the right to life and political rights of the victim, as well as the rights to personal integrity, a fair trial, and judicial protection in regards to the family of the victim. The Commission issued a report which recommends that Honduras provide both material reparations for the family as well as a proper investigation, assignment of responsibility, and sanctions for the involved state organizations and agents. As the Commission’s recommendations received no answer or action by the State of Honduras, the report was submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on November 13, 2015 to bring a formal case in that Court. In addition to an opportunity to bring justice to the family of the victim, this case could help the IACHR to develop its case law regarding the duty to investigate, which in turn could have a profound impact on State accountability.