Richard Conrad Solorzano Contreras v. Guatemala

Report No. 103/09, Petition 581-03, October 29, 2009; OEA/Ser.L/V/II., Doc. 51, corr. 1, 30 December 2009
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Richard Solórzano Contreras was stabbed in the neck near his home in Guatemala from where his brother rushed him to the state hospital. Solórzano Contreras’s father, the petitioner, alleged that at the hospital the doctor and nurses did not perform any operations to try to save his son’s life. Rather, they “merely cleaned the wound, prepared a vein to connect a drip, and checked his vital signs.” After about 30 minutes, the doctor ordered his oxygen disconnected, and he died ten minutes thereafter. The petitioner also claimed that the police and the judicial system refused to investigate or prosecute Solórzano Contreras’s killer, but rather concealed the responsibility and the whereabouts of the alleged culprit.

When Guatemala did not satisfactorily respond, the petitioner brought claims against Guatemala under the American Convention on Human Rights (the “American Convention”) both for the state’s refusal to investigate Solórzano Contreras’s murder and for the hospital’s failure to attempt to provide Solórzano Contreras with the required medical care.


The Commission declared inadmissible the petitioner’s claims related to the state hospital’s refusal to provide medical care to his son due to a failure to exhaust domestic remedies. The petitioner presented no evidence that he had invoked any domestic processes about Solórzano Contreras’s medical treatment or that he attempted to procure any domestic remedy whatsoever. Thus, the Commission found that petitioner could not show that he had exhausted his remedies or that an exception to the requirement of exhaustion could apply.

However, the Commission declared admissible the petitioner’s claims under Articles 8 (Right to a Fair Trial) and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention in regards to Guatemala’s failure to investigate and punish those responsible for Solórzano Contreras’s murder.  The Commission determined that the lengthy timeline of the criminal proceedings was indicative of impermissible delay, and therefore the exception to the requirement for exhaustion of domestic remedies applied. Moreover, the Commission found that the petitioner’s complaint presented a colorable claim that Articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention had been violated.

“[T]he petitioner has not supplied any information to suggest the invocation of any remedy at the national level designed to bring these circumstances to the attention of the appropriate judicial authorities. Consequently, the [Commission] finds that said claims are inadmissible since it has not been shown that the rule on prior exhaustion of domestic remedies contained in the Convention has been met, nor has an explanation been provided of circumstances that warrant an exception to this rule.” Paragraph 33.

“In keeping with the foregoing, as a general rule, criminal investigations must be conducted promptly, in order to protect the interests of the victims, preserve the evidence, and safeguard the rights of anyone considered a suspect in the context of the investigation. As the Inter-American Court has noted, while every criminal investigation must meet a series of legal requirements, the rule of prior exhaustion of domestic remedies should not lead international action on behalf of the victims to come to a halt or to be delayed to the point of being rendered ineffective.

Consequently, the Commission finds that the exception provided in Article 46(2)(c) of the American Convention is applicable. Accordingly the requirement of prior exhaustion of domestic remedies contained in the American Convention does not apply and nor, therefore, does the six-month deadline for lodging the petition.” Paragraphs 38 and 39