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

Inter American Court of Human Rights

IACtHR Jurisprudence

  • Rosendo Cantu v. Mexico (2010). Sexual violence, rape, torture. Rosendo Cantu was walking home when she was stopped and questioned by a group of soldiers. When she did not give the soldiers the answers they were looking for, two of the soldiers raped her while six others watched. Subsequent to the rape, the State failed to carry out an effective investigation into the allegations of sexual violence by members of the armed forces. The Inter-American Court held that Mexico had committed an act of turtler. It placed special importance on the vulnerable situation of Ms. Cantu given the fact that she was a minor and also a member of the indigenous community. It found Mexico in violation of the right to personal integrity, dignity, privacy, the rights of the child and due process rights. It also found that the State had failed to comply with its due diligence obligations to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women and the general obligation of non-discrimination in accessing justice. The Court ordered Mexico to pay monetary compensation for the harms suffered and to also ensure that Ms. Cantu’s daughter received a scholarship to study.
  • Perozo et al. v. Venezuela (2009). Harassment of female journalists. This case was brought against Venezuela under allegations of harassment and physical and verbal assault toward journalists, including some female journalists, by state actors over a period of four years. While the Court found Venezuela to be in violation of the right to speak freely, receive and impart information and the right to humane treatment (violations of Articles 1(1), 5(1) and 13(1) of the American Convention on Human Rights), the Court also found there was insufficient evidence to establish violations of Articles 13(3), 21 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.  The Court further noted that it would not analyze the alleged actions under Articles 1, 2 and 7(b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.
  • Cantoral-Huamaní and García-Santa Cruz v. Peru (2007). Women's freedom of association.  The IACHR lodged an application against Peru for the violation, among other things, of the right to free association. Garcia-Santa Cruz was founder of a women's organization in a mining community, and provided support to the families of miners during a mining strike. Garcia-Santa Cruz was executed, and the Court held that her execution was an attempt to intimidate miners into not unionizing. The Court held this type of intimidation to be a violation of the freedom of association (Article 16 of the American Convention). The Court also found Peru to have violated Articles 1(1), 4, 5, 7, 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court ordered Peru to investigate and punish those who carried out these violations, to publicly acknowledge international responsibility for these violations, to provide psychological services to the victims' next of kin, and to pay pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages and costs.
  • Miguel Castro-Castro Prison v. Peru (2006). Violence in prisons.  Approximately 135 female prison inmates (along with about 450 male inmates) were subjected to violent attacks by guards and other state agents over the course of three days at the Castro-Castro maximum security prison. Some female inmates were humiliated, stripped-down and subjected to further physical and psychological abuse. Many inmates were held in solitary confinement, were denied medical care, and were kept from communicating with their families or their attorneys. The Court found Peru to have violated Articles 4, 5(1), 5(2), 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, and Article 7(b) of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women.  The Court ordered Peru to investigate and punish those responsible for these violations, to return the bodies of any inmates killed to their next of kin, to publicly acknowledge and apologize for these violations, to provide at no cost medical and psychological treatment to the victimized inmates and next of kin, and to pay reparations to the victims or their next of kin.
  • Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay (2006). Exposure of vulnerable members of indigenous communities, particularly children, pregnant women and the elderly.  A petition was filed against Paraguay on behalf of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community, alleging, among others, violations of the right to fair trial and judicial protection, the right to property and the right to life. The allegations made note of the particularly vulnerable situations in which these violations put children, pregnant women and the elderly. The Court found Paraguay to be in violation of Articles 1(1), 2, 3, 4(1), 8, 19, 21 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court ordered Paraguay to formally and physically convey to the Sawhoyamaxa their traditional lands, to establish a community development fund, to pay non-pecuniary damages, to provide the Sawhoyamaxa with basic necessities until their lands were restored, to provide them with the necessary tools for communication to access health authorities, and to domestically enact legislation creating a mechanism for indigenous communities to reclaim their traditional lands.
  • Girls Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic (2005). Denial of citizenship and education to girls.  The IACHR submitted an application to the Court to determine whether the Dominican Republic had violated Articles 1(1), 2, 3, 8, 19, 20, 24 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Dilcia Oliven Yean and Violeta Bosico Cofi. The application was based on the fact that the two girls had been denied Dominican birth certificates despite having been born within Dominican territory, leaving the girls stateless and without nationality. This also caused one of them, Violeta, to not be admitted to school since you must present a birth certificate to attend school in the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic eventually granted the girls their birth certificates and then argued that by doing so, the girls' cause of action before the commission was null. The girls, however, argued that receiving their birth certificates did not remedy the fact that they had been stateless for four years. The Court found the Dominican Republic violated Articles 1(1), 3, 5, 18, 19, 20, and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights and ordered the Dominican Republic to issue a public apology to the girls and to pass legislation consistent with Article 2 of the American Convention which would make it simple to acquire citizenship upon late declaration of birth.
  • Molina-Theissen v. Guatemala (2004). Rape while in captivity. (reparations & costs).  This case was submitted to the Court by the IACtHR to determine if human rights violations were committed by Guatemala in relation to the forced disappearance of 14-year old Marco Antonio Molina Thiessen by the Guatemalan army. The Molina Thiessen family was comprised of left-leaning academics and was therefore considered a threat to the military regime in place at the time of the forced disappearance. Prior to child's disappearance, his sister, Emma Guadalupe, was detained and illegally incarcerated, during which time she was repeatedly raped and physically and psychologically tortured. She managed to escape and Marco Antonio's abduction was seen as retaliation against the family for Emma Guadalupe's escape. After the forced disappearance, the Molina Thiessen family never again saw Marco Antonio and was forced to seek political asylum in a number of other countries. Guatemala acknowledged its international responsibility for these incidents. The Court found Guatemala to have violated numerous articles of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Marco Antonio, and "Articles, 5(1) and 5(2) (Right to Humane Treatment); 8 (Right to a Fair Trial); 17 (Rights of the Family), and 25 (Judicial Protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, and that it failed to comply with the obligations established in Articles 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) thereof, to the detriment of the next of kin of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen," including his sister, Emma Guadalupe.
  • Plan de Sánchez Massacre v. Guatemala (2004). Military rape and murder of women and girls.  The IACHR submitted this case to the Court, alleging violations by Guatemala of the rights to humane treatment, to judicial protection, to fair trial, to equal treatment, to freedom of conscience and of religion, and to private property, in combination with the obligation to respect rights. These allegations arose from a massacre carried out by the Guatemalan army against a primarily Mayan community. During the massacre, approximately 20 girls ages 12 to 20 were mistreated, raped and murdered. Guatemala acknowledged its international responsibility for the massacre and withdrew any objections to the allegations. The Court found that Guatemala "breached the rights set forth in Articles 5(1) and 5(2) (Right to Humane Treatment); 8(1) (Right to Fair Trial); 11 (Right to Privacy); 12(2) and 12(3) (Freedom of Conscience and Religion); 13(2) paragraph a and 13(5) (Freedom of Thought and Expression), 16(1) (Freedom of Association), 21(1) and 21(2) (Right to Property), 24 (Right to Equal Protection) and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights; and that it did not fulfill the obligation to respect rights set forth in Article 1(1) of that Convention, as set forth in paragraphs 47 and 48 of the instant Judgment."
  • De La Cruz-Flores v. Peru (2004). Abuse while in captivity.  De La Cruz-Flores was detained, charged and convicted by a "faceless judge" for the crime of terrorism. In 2003, laws were passed ordering the annulment of judgments made by secret judges and practitioners. De La Cruz-Flores, however, remained in captivity, captivity she argued was arbitrary. The Court held that Peru violated De La Cruz-Flores's rights under Articles 1(1), 5, 7 and 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court ordered Peru to reinstate De La Cruz-Flores in her previous employment, grant her any previous retirement benefits, pay her costs, pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, grant her medical and psychological treatment and provide her with a grant for professional development.
  • Lori Berenson-Mejía v. Peru (2004).  Illegal incarceration, custodial violence.Mrs. Lori Berenson-Mejía was detained, tried before a "faceless" military court, wherein the judge's identity was unknown, and sentenced to detention in which she was subjected to inhumane conditions.  The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) held that Peru violated Mrs. Berenson-Mejía's right to a fair trial (Article 1) because neither Mrs. Berenson-Mejía nor her attorney were present during the military trial; right to humane treatment (Article 5) for the detention conditions she was subjected to; right to legal access (Article 8) in relation to the trial before a "faceless" court; and freedom from ex post facto laws (Article 9) of the American Convention on Human Rights.
  • "White Van" (Paniagua-Morales et al.) v. Guatemala (1998). Abduction and murder. The IACHR submitted this case to the Court to determine whether Guatemala had violated the American Convention on Human Rights by "acts of abduction, arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment, torture and murder committed by agents of the State, of Guatemala against eleven victims," some of them women. The Court held that Guatemala violated Articles 1(1), 4(1), 5(1), 5(2), 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. The Court ordered Guatemala to investigate and punish those responsible for the violations, and to pay reparations to the victims and their next of kin.
  • María Elena Loayza-Tamayo v. Peru (1997). Sexual violence, rape, torture (reparations & costs).  The National Counter-Terrorism Bureau of Peru detained Mrs. María Elena Loayza-Tamayo.  While detained, state agents threatened her with torture and repeatedly raped her in an effort to force her to confess to belonging to the Peruvian Communist Party ("Shining Path").  Mrs. Loayza-Tamayo was charged and convicted of treason, and was held in solitary confinement during detention.  Mrs. Loayza-Tamayo filed a complaint alleging numerous human rights violations and requesting her release.  The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) held that Peru violated the right to humane treatment and to personal liberty recognized in Articles 5 and 7, respectively, of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) by detaining her incommunicado, holding her in detention after the military court rendered its final order, and subjecting her to torture.  Peru also violated the right to judicial guarantees found in Articles 8 and 25 of the ACHR and ordered Peru to release Mrs. Loayza-Tamayo.  The Court ordered Peru to pay fair compensation to Mrs. Loayza-Tamayo and to reimburse her for any expenses incurred.
  • Velasquez-Rodriguez Case (1988).  States are responsible for private acts of violence (duty to investigate, prosecute and punish).
  • Proposed Amendments to the Naturalization Provisions of the Constitution of Costa Rica (1984).  Gender discrimination.  A proposed amendment to the Constitution of Costa Rica would have given foreign women, but not foreign men, citizenship based on marriage to a Costa Rican.  In this advisory opinion, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) held that the proposed amendment would constitute discrimination incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights because the amendment was based on notions of paternal authority and conjugal inequality.