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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

Inter American Commission on Human Rights

IACHR Communications:

  • Jessica Gonzales v the United States (2011). Jessica Gonzales petitioned that her human rights had not been protected. Previously the Supreme Court had ruled that her Due Process rights had not been violated after police didn't enforce a restraining order against her ex-husband, who subsequently murdered her three children. The Commission ruled that the state had not properly protected Jessica and recommended legislative reform to better protect women and children against domestic violence.
  • Women and girls victims of sexual violence living in 22 internally displaced persons camps, Precautionary Measures No. MC-340-10 Haiti (2010). On October 21, 2010, ten groups* filed a request on behalf of displaced women in Haiti for precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). The groups asked the Commission to grant the request pursuant to Article 25 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure as an urgent measure to address the multiple acts of sexual violence that women and girls in the displacement camps faced after the devastating 2010 earthquake. A report detailing the atrocities committed against women brutally attacked in the displacement camps accompanied the request.In January 2011, the Commission granted the request and issued precautionary measures and recommendations. These included sensitive and integral access to medical care for victims of sexual violence, implementation of security measures, and training of officials to deal with sexual violence and assault (including special units in the police and increased patrols). The Commission also requested that Haiti ensure the full participation of grassroots women's groups in the planning and implementation of policies designed to combat and prevent sexual violence. Further, the Commission recommended that emergency contraception be provided for all victims of sexual violence. This decision was without precedent in the Inter-American System of Human Rights when decided.*Women's Link Worldwide, the International Women's Human Rights Clinic of the City University of New York (CUNY), MADRE, Bureau des Acvocats Internationaux, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Morrison &Foerster LLP, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Haitian organizations KOFAVIV, FAVILEK, and KONAMAVID.
  • X and Relatives v. Colombia (2008). Rape by military members. Case was brought before the Commission against Colombia for failing to prosecute members of the Colombian military for sexually assaulting the victim. The Complaint sought to have Colombia assume international responsibility for violating articles 1(1), 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as Articles I, V, VII, XI, XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Colombia and the petitioners were able to reach a friendly settlement under which the victim was awarded moral and material damages. Under the friendly settlement, Colombia also agreed to pay for the victim's education, provide her with medical and psychological services, and other necessary services to fully compensate the victim and her family. Colombia also agreed to reopen the criminal investigation and to work with the victim to fully investigate and prosecute her case.
  • Report on Admissibility of Jessica Gonzales and Others v. United States (2007). State duty to enforce court-ordered protective order.  Jessica Gonzales' three children were killed when local police failed to enforced a restraining order against her estranged husband.  The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that no affirmative duty exists on the part of the government to enforce a protective order.
  • Paulina Del Carmen Ramirez Jacinto v. Mexico (2007). Forced motherhood after rape. A complaint was lodged against Mexico for failing to allow a minor to receive an abortion after she was raped. The complaint alleged the violation of Articles 1, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 19, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 4, 7, and 9 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, Article 10 of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Articles 9, 17, and 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 3 and 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Articles 19, 37, and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Mexico and the petitioner reached a friendly settlement under which the government of Baja California would pay the victim's legal and medical expenses, provide her with school and housing expense assistance, medical and psychological services, free public higher education for her child, a computer and a printer, moral damages. The Mexican state also committed itself to increasing awareness and availability of legal termination of pregnancy.
  • Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chavez v. Peru (2003). Forced sterilization.  A complaint was raised against Peru for the forced sterilization of Mestanza Chavez, forced sterilization which eventually caused her death. The complaint alleged that she was pressured into sterilization as part of a government objective to curve the population numbers of poor, Indian and rural women. After the sterilization, Mestanza Chavez fell ill from complications and eventually died.  The complaint alleged the violation of Articles 4, 5, 1, and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights,  Articles 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, Articles 3 and 10 of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and Articles 12 and 14(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The parties reached a friendly settlement under which Peru agreed to investigate and punish those responsible for the forced sterilization, pay the victim's next of kin moral and corollary damages, pay the victim's medical expenses to her next of kin, provide her children with free primary, provide secondary and public university education to the victim's children, and pay money for the victim's spouse to purchase a home. Peru also agreed to amend its reproductive laws to eliminate any discriminatory policies within such laws.
  • Monica Carabantes Galleguillos v. Chile (2002).  Discrimination against pregnant girl in school.  Chile agreed to cover the educational expenses of a pregnant teenager who was expelled from her school for being pregnant.
  • Maria Eugenia Morales de Sierra v. Guatemala (2001).  Discrimination in marriage.  Challenge to Articles 109, 110, 113, 114, 115, 131, 133, 255 and 317 of the Guatemalan Civil Code, which define role of each spouse within the institution of marriage, creating distinctions between men and women in violation of Articles 1(1), 2, 17 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
  • Maria da Penha v. Brazil (2000). Impunity for severe intimate partner violence.  Abusive husband shot Maria da Penha in the back while she was sleeping.  Da Penha was paralyzed from the waist down.  The husband received 2 years in prison after 19 years of trial.  The Inter-American Commission found that the delays and the lack of protections in Brazil for domestic violence survivors amounted to violations of da Penha's human right to live free from violence and to access justice.
  • X and Y v. Argentina (1996). Vaginal inspections for visits to family inmates.  A complaint was brought against Argentina by a woman and her 13-year old daughter who were routinely subjected to vaginal inspections when they would visit the woman's husband (and girl's father) at a prison. The complaint alleged that such inspections violated the "American Convention as it offends the dignity of the persons subjected to such a procedure (Article 11), and is a degrading penal measure which extends beyond the person condemned or on trial (Article 5.3) and, furthermore, discriminates against women (Article 24), in relation to Article 1.1."  Argentina argued that such inspections were reasonably necessary and conducted with as little intrusion as possible by female guards. The Commission opined that such an inspection should not occur unless absolutely necessary. In this case, the Court found that the procedure was not absolutely necessary as there were alternatives that could achieve the same objective. The Commission also held that in cases where such an inspection was absolutely necessary, they should only be carried out by pursuant to a judicial order, and by qualified medical personnel. The Commission found the inspections in this case to violate Articles 5, 11, 17, 19 of the American Convention on Human Right
  • Raquel Martín de Mejía v. Peru, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 1996.  Rape, sexual violence.  In 1989, amid the Shining Path Rebellion and drug wars in Peru, members of the Peruvian armed forces entered the home of Fernando Mejía Ogocheaga under the suspicion that he was a member of the revolutionary movement.  The troops then abducted Mr. Mejía and one of the armed militants twice raped Mr. Mejía's wife, Mrs. Raquel Martín de Mejía.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) determined that these two instances of rape constituted torture and were a violation of Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), which protects the right to humane treatment.  The IACHR explained that torture, as established in the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, consists of three elements: (1) there must be an "intentional act through which physical and mental pain and suffering is inflicted" upon the victim; (2) there must be a purpose to the act; and (3) the act must be "committed by a public official or by a private person acting at the instigation of" a public official.  The IACHR found that the rapes perpetrated by a member of the Peruvian armed forces satisfied these requirements and therefore constituted torture.  The IACHR also determined that the Peruvian military violated Mrs. Mejía's right to protection of honor and dignity under Article 11 of the ACHR.  Lastly, the IACHR held that Peru's failure to act with due diligence in guaranteeing Mrs. Mejía's right to an effective judicial recourse for the human rights violations she and her husband, Mr. Mejía, suffered constituted a violation of Articles 1(1) (Right to non-discrimination), 8(1) (Right to due process), and 25 (Right to an effective recourse) of the ACHR.
  • Marcela Andrea Valdés Díaz v. Chile, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2009.  Domestic violence, sexual violence, rape, gender discrimination.  Mrs. Marcela Andrea Valdés Díaz was a member of the Chilean police whose husband, the captain of the police force, abused her physically and psychologically.  Shortly after the abuse, Mrs. Valdés obtained an order of protection from her husband and sought permission from the police force to live separately from Mr. Vazquez.  Mrs. Valdés's was sentenced to 15 days of detention and discharged from her job because of her request to live separately from her spouse., she was sentenced to 15 days of detention and ultimately discharged from her job.  Mrs. Valdés brought this suit claiming violations of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that this suit warranted a decision based on the ACHR and the Convention of Belém do Pará.  Mrs. Valdés and Chile reached a friendly settlement agreement, under which Mrs. Valdés was awarded economic reparation for her material and non-pecuniary damages.  Chile agreed to enhance and strengthen its efforts to prevent violence against women by, among other actions, reviewing its legal and regulatory standards on domestic violence and sexual harassment, holding training workshops on these issues, and setting up working groups to detect other gender inequities.