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1988 | THE INTER-AMERICAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS | Velasquez Rodriguez Case, Judgment of July 29, 1988, Inter-Am.Ct.H.R. (Ser. C) No. 4 (1988).

This case, like that of Filartiga, arose in the context of violent oppression of political opponents rather than in the context of a war. The relevant period in Honduras (early 1980’s) was characterized by struggles for political and ideological dominance by different national and international forces, and kidnappings and extrajudicial killings were notoriously common. It is considered as a leading case on the crime of disappearance and also as a very significant case on State responsibility, which in turn has important implications for the implementation of the right to reparation. The Inter-American Court gives detailed consideration to the question of the nature of a State’s responsibility actively to protect the human rights of those within its jurisdiction. The Court held that this responsibility ‘is not fulfilled by the existence of a legal system designed [merely] to make it possible to comply with this obligation’. Rather, the responsibility of the State encompasses ‘the duty … to organize the governmental apparatus and, in general, all the structures through which public power is exercised, so that they are capable of juridically ensuring the free and full enjoyment of human rights’ [emphasis added].