I/A Court H.R., Case of the Plan de Sánchez Massacre v. Guatemala. Reparations. Judgment of November 19, 2004. Series C No. 116.

Non official brief

This summary is also published in the website of the Council of Europe in the following link: https://www.venice.coe.int/files/Bulletin/B2005-2-e.pdf




When an unlawful act occurs, which can be attributed to a State, this gives rise immediately to its international responsibility for violating the international norm, with the consequent obligation to cause the consequences of the violation to cease and to repair the damage caused.


Whenever possible, reparation of the damage caused by the violation of an international obligation requires full restitution (restitutio in integrum), which consists in the re-establishment of the previous situation. If this is not possible, as in the instant case, the international Court must determine a series of measures to ensure that, in addition to guaranteeing respect for the violated rights, the consequences of the violations are remedied and compensation paid for the damage caused. It is also necessary to add any positive measures the State must adopt to ensure that the harmful acts, such as those that occurred in this case, are not repeated."


Non-pecuniary damage can include the suffering and hardship caused to the direct victims and to their next of kin, the harm of objects of value that are very significant to the individual, and also changes, of a non-pecuniary nature, in the living conditions of the victims. Since it is not possible to allocate a precise monetary equivalent to non-pecuniary damage, it can only be compensated in two ways in order to make integral reparation to the victims. First, by the payment of a sum of money that the Court decides by the reasonable exercise of judicial discretion and in terms of fairness. Second, by performing acts or implementing projects with public recognition or repercussion.


International case law has established repeatedly that the judgment constitutes, per se, a form of reparation.


Non-pecuniary damages are damages that have public repercussions.


Impunity contravenes a State's obligation to conduct an effective investigation, harms the victims, and encourages the chronic repetition of the human rights violations in question.


The victims of human rights violations and their next of kin have the right to know the truth. This right to the truth has been developed by international human rights law and its recognition is an important measure of reparation.


Costs and expenses are included in the concept of reparation embodied in Article 63.1 ACHR, because the measures taken by the victim in order to obtain justice at the domestic and the international level imply expenditure that must be compensated when the State's international responsibility has been declared in a judgment against it.




On 31 July 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed an application against the State of Guatemala before the Inter-American Court, for the Court to declare that the State was internationally responsible for violations to the rights to humane treatment, judicial protection, a fair trial, equal protection, freedom of conscience and religion, and property, in relation to the obligation to respect rights, which are embodied in Articles 5, 8, 25, 24, 12, 21 and 1.1 ACHR. In the application, the Commission alleged there had been a denial of justice and other acts of intimidation and discrimination affecting the rights to humane treatment, freedom of conscience and religion, and property of the survivors, and the next of kin of the victims of the massacre of 268 individuals, mostly members of the Maya indigenous people of the village of Plan de Sánchez, Municipality of Rabinal, Department of Baja Verapaz, perpetrated by members of the Guatemalan Army and civilian collaborators, under the guidance of the Army, on Sunday, 18 July 1982.


In its Judgment on Reparations of 19 November 2004, the Court held that the judgment constituted, per se, a form of reparation, and ordered the State to investigate effectively the facts of the Plan de Sánchez Massacre in order to identify, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds; organise a public act, in both Spanish and Maya-Achí, to acknowledge its responsibility for the events that occurred in this case, to make reparation to its victims, and publicise it in the media; publicly honor the memory of those executed in the Plan de Sánchez massacre carried out by State agents on 18 July 1982; translate the American Convention on Human Rights into Maya-Achí, if this has not been done already, and also the judgment on merits delivered by the Court on 29 April 2004, and this judgment; provide the necessary resources to publicise these texts in the municipality of Rabinal and deliver them to the victims in this case; publish, within one year from notification of this judgment, at least once, in the official gazette and in another daily newspaper with national circulation, in Spanish and in Maya-Achí, the section entitled Proven Facts in Chapter V, and the first to fourth operative paragraphs of the judgment on merits delivered by the Court on 29 April 2004, and also Chapter VII, entitled Proven Facts (without the footnotes), and the first declaratory point and the first to ninth operative paragraphs of this judgment; pay the amount established in paragraph 104 of this judgment to maintain and improve the infrastructure of the chapel in which the victims pay homage to those executed in the Plan de Sánchez massacre; provide, free of charge, through its specialised health institutions, the medical treatment required by the victims, including, inter alia, any necessary medication; create a specialised program of psychological and psychiatric treatment, which must also be provided free of charge; provide adequate housing to the surviving victims who reside in the village of Plan de Sánchez; implement the following programs in the communities of Plan de Sánchez, Chipuerta, Joya de Ramos, Raxjut, Volcanillo, Coxojabaj, Las Tunas, Las Minas, Las Ventanas, Ixchel, Chiac, Concul and Chichupac:


a. study and dissemination of the Maya-Achí culture in the affected communities through the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages or a similar organization

b. maintenance and improvement of the road systems between the said communities and the municipal capital of Rabinal;

c. sewage system and potable water supply;

d. supply of teaching personnel trained in intercultural and bilingual teaching for primary, secondary and comprehensive schooling in these communities, and

e. the establishment of a health center in the village of Plan de Sánchez with adequate personnel and conditions, and also training for the personnel of the Rabinal Municipal Health Center so that they may provide medical and psychological care to those who have been affected and who require this kind of treatment; make the payments for pecuniary damage to each of the victims in this case; and make the payment for non-pecuniary damage to each of the victims in this case; make the payment for costs and expenses incurred in the international proceedings.