IACHR Takes Case involving Guatemala to the Inter-American Court
April 1, 2014
Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.777, Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz v. Guatemala.
The case has to do with the State of Guatemala’s international responsibility for failing to meet its obligation to protect the life and physical integrity of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz. On August 12, 2005, when she did not arrive home, her parents went to officially report her disappearance, but they were told that they had to wait 24 hours before filing the report. The State did not take immediate and exhaustive search and protection measures for Claudina Isabel during the first hours after they learned of her disappearance, despite the fact that the State authorities were aware that there was a context of violence against women that placed the victim in a clear situation of imminent peril. The lifeless body of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz was found the following day, August 13, 2005, with signs of her having been subjected to acts of extreme violence, including rape.
The State of Guatemala also incurred international responsibility by not having conducted a serious investigation into the disappearance, violence against, and death of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz. Accordingly, the Commission found that from the start of the investigation there were many failings, such as deficiencies in the handling and analysis of the evidence collected; flaws in the handling and preservation of the crime scene and the taking of expert evidence; irregularities in the autopsy report; the lack of comprehensive tests on different parts of the victim’s body to verify possible rape; irregularities in the taking of the victim’s fingerprints; and the failure to take the testimony of relevant witnesses. In addition, this case involved a delay, attributable to the State, primarily reflected in the constant changes of the prosecutors in charge of the case.
Moreover, discriminatory stereotypes were taken into consideration during the proceedings, which had a serious impact on the lack of diligence in the investigation. The Commission considered that both the lack of protection of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz and the lack of investigation into her death constitute a clear reflection of the underlying situation of discrimination against women in Guatemala.
The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on March 5, 2014, because the State of Guatemala had not complied with its recommendations. The Commission had recommended that the State: complete the investigation in a timely, immediate, serious, and impartial manner to clear up the killing of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz and identify, prosecute, and , where appropriate, punish those responsible; adopt or adapt, as appropriate, protocols for investigation and for expert services to be used in all crimes involving disappearances, sexual violence, and killings of women; provide full compensation to the relatives of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz; implement, as a measure to ensure non-repetition, a comprehensive, coordinated official policy; strengthen the institutional capacity to combat impunity for cases of violence against women; adopt reforms in the State’s educational programs; and adopt comprehensive public policies and institutional programs designed to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes about the role of women.
The case will enable the Court to delve into the close relationship between discrimination and violence against women, as well as between discrimination and the lack of serious and diligent investigation into such acts of violence. This subject may be addressed from the standpoint of the particular context of violence against women in Guatemala, as well as from the structural situation of impunity that persists in these cases in that country.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.