Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Colombia to the Inter-American Court

December 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 12.841, Ángel Alberto Duque, concerning Colombia.

The case involves Ángel Alberto Duque’s exclusion from the possibility of obtaining a survivor’s pension after the death of his partner, based on the fact that his partner was of the same sex. Ángel Alberto Duque was a victim of discrimination based on his sexual orientation. While the goal of protecting the family, invoked by the State, was legitimate in the abstract, the difference in treatment could not be considered proper, as the concept of family cited by the authorities is limited and stereotyped, arbitrarily excluding different types of families such as those formed by same-sex partners. Moreover, the State did not provide the victim with an effective remedy for the violation; to the contrary, with their decisions the judicial authorities who heard the case perpetuated the damage and stigma against individuals and same-sex couples. In addition, due to the multiple vulnerability factors affecting Ángel Alberto Duque—including his sexual orientation, his status as someone with HIV, and his economic situation—the victim’s right to humane treatment was also affected.

The Inter-American Commission submitted Case 12.841 to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court on October 21, 2014, because it considered that the State of Colombia had failed to comply with the recommendations in the Commission’s Merits Report. In that report, the Commission recommended that the State of Colombia provide reparations to Ángel Alberto Duque for the human rights violations stated in the report, taking into account both material and non-material damages and, specifically, granting a survivor’s pension and fair compensation and providing uninterrupted access to health services and HIV treatment. The Commission also recommended that the State adopt the necessary measures to ensure that events such as those seen in this case do not happen again. In particular, the Commission noted the importance of complying with and implementing court decisions issued subsequent to this case, which recognized the right to a survivor’s pension for partners in same-sex couples and determined that earlier cases should also be covered by those decisions. In addition, as part of measures to ensure that such events would not be repeated, the Commission recommended training those who work in the provision of social security services, whether in the public or private sphere, to process the applications of those who belonged or belong to same-sex couples and to ensure that same-sex couples are not discriminated against in terms of access to social security services and, specifically, that they are allowed to present the same means of proof as heterosexual couples.

This case will enable the Inter-American Court to rule on discrimination based on sexual orientation. While the Inter-American Court first ruled on this issue in Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile, this case presents a different set of facts involving discrimination and access to social rights as regards families and couples. In particular, the case provides an opportunity for the Court to rule on the analysis that should be carried out to determine the permissibility of excluding family units or same-sex couples from having access to such rights, such as social security and health. The case will also enable the development of case law that could make a favorable contribution to the development of legislation by the States regarding this issue.

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. 144/14