Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Guatemala to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

October 7, 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 12,739 – Maria Inés Chinchilla et al. regardingGuatemala.

This case concerns the human rights violations committed against María Inés Chinchilla Sandoval as a result of the failure to provide her with proper medical care while she was an inmate at the Centro de Orientación Feminina (COF), and the facts surrounding her death.  The Commission found that for the duration of Chinchilla Sandoval’s incarceration, the Guatemalan State had a special duty as guarantor of her rights to life and personal integrity.  However, it failed to conduct the full testing necessary to determine what illnesses she was suffering from, and failed to provide all the treatment and care she required.   Furthermore, despite the special obligations incumbent upon the State when it incarcerates a person with disabilities, the State did not provide her with the conditions necessary to protect her rights.  On the day of her death, she had no one to assist her and as a result fell from her wheelchair down the stairs.  The Commission considered that María Inés Chinchilla Sandoval did not receive effective judicial protection.  Furthermore, the investigation undertaken by the State failed to determine whether the established causes of her death were a consequence of a lack of proper medical attention and the conditions of her incarceration; to this day, no blame of any kind has been assigned for her death.

The Inter-American Commission referred case 12,739 to the Court on August 19, 2014, because it determined that the Guatemalan State had not complied with the recommendations made in the Merits Report.  In that report, the Commission had recommended to the State that it make full reparations for the human rights violations committed, that it conduct an impartial, thorough, effective and swift investigation to establish the corresponding blame; and that it guarantee proper and prompt medical care and adequate conditions of incarceration for any handicapped persons being held in the Centro de Orientación Femenina, among others.

This case will enable the Court to develop and elaborate upon its case law on the subject of the rights to life, personal integrity and judicial protection enjoyed by persons deprived of their liberty who require specific medical treatment because of the particular nature of their illness and/or who have a disability.  This case will also give the Court an opportunity to build upon its case law on the subject of the standards of due diligence when investigating cases in which a person died while in the custody of the State because of a lack of proper medical attention, and regarding the extent of the duty to punish health professionals, court authorities and prison officials for failure to provide proper medical care and to ensure adequate detention conditions.

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.

No. 113/14