Press Release

IACHR Brings Guatemala Case before the IA Court

August 7, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On July 17, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over the case of Brisa Liliana de Ángulo Lozada, concerning Bolivia. The case relates to the lack of protection, investigation, and punishment of the sexual violence suffered by the victim when she was an adolescent.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR concluded that the state had not carried out a serious, effective investigation using all available legal means in response to a report of sexual violence against Brisa, then a 16-year-old, by her cousin, who was 26 at the time. Specifically, the IACHR noted that the Public Prosecutor’s Office did not carry out a thorough, truth-seeking investigation with enhanced due diligence into the allegations of abuse, sexual violence, and rape, nor were the criminal proceedings implemented appropriately based on the available evidence. This point was observed by the very courts that heard the case, which led to a revocation and a referral for retrial, at which point the alleged perpetrator absconded, without any order for his arrest or extradition being issued. Given these circumstances, the IACHR determined that the victim did not receive an adequate legal remedy in response to her report of sexual violence.

The IACHR also determined that the necessary measures were not taken to prevent the revictimization of Brisa during the investigation and trial, nor were the proceedings conducted with gender and children’s rights perspectives. This should have been the case as allegations of sexual violence against an adolescent girl demands strict, reinforced due diligence and special protection.

The issues that were discussed by the IACHR in its Merits Report included the fact that the state did not provide the victim with immediate professional medical and psychological care, which was instead provided by her family, who even created an institution to help victims in similar situations due to the absence of support of this type in Bolivia. The IACHR also observed that Brisa was subjected to traumatic hearings by the prosecutor in an intimidating, hostile, insensitive, and inappropriate environment. Nor were steps taken to prevent her from being threatened, harassed, or bullied by the witnesses for the defense before her testimony, which she reported having experienced.

The IACHR also noted that the victim was subjected to various physical examinations, including an abusive, humiliating gynecological forensic examination for which she was not allowed to choose the sex of the forensic specialist. There is also no evidence that the doctor or the students who assisted him had received special training to care for child victims of sexual violence. The IACHR also understood that an excessive number of health workers were present during the examination, which involved the use of force and a lack of respect for the victim’s requests and expressions of distress and pain. The IACHR also noted that Brisa was subsequently subjected to a further gynecological forensic examination that was absolutely unnecessary as there was no dispute that sexual relations had taken place between the victim and the accused, and which could prove nothing given that almost seven years had passed since the events occurred.

The IACHR determined that these issues constituted not only arbitrary interference into the victim’s private life but also serious institutional violence of a sexual nature. It also found that these errors and shortcomings caused the criminal proceedings not to have been closed within a reasonable period, as a final sentence of conviction or acquittal has still not been reached nearly 18 years after the events in question. Finally, the IACHR deemed that the absence of enhanced due diligence and special protection in response to the fact that the victim was an adolescent reporting violence against women constituted discrimination in accessing justice on the grounds of both gender and age.

In view of this, the IACHR concluded that the state of Bolivia was responsible for the violation of its duty to guarantee the right of access to justice without discrimination on the grounds of gender and age enshrined in articles 8.1 and 25.1 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations established in articles 1.1, 19, and 24 of this instrument and articles 7(b) and 7(f) of the Convention of Belém do Pará, to the detriment of Brisa Liliana De Angulo Lozada. The IACHR also found that the state was responsible for violating the rights to personal integrity and privacy enshrined in articles 5.1 and 11.2 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations established in articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument, to the detriment of Brisa De Angulo Lozada.
In its merits report, the IACHR made the following recommendations to the state of Bolivia:

1. Provide comprehensive material and moral redress for the human rights violations set out in the report. The state must take measures to provide economic compensation and redress.

2. Provide the healthcare measures needed to help Brisa De Angulo Lozada with the recovery process, should she so wish. Any such measures should be agreed upon with her. If healthcare measures in favor of the victim cannot be implemented because she no longer resides in Bolivia, the state should provide an adequate sum of money for her to be able to pay for such treatment herself.

3. Continue the criminal investigation into these events diligently, effectively, and within a reasonable period of time, so as to completely clarify events, determine those responsible for them, and sanction them accordingly. As part of this ongoing investigation and criminal proceedings, the state must take all measures within its reach to remedy and shortfalls, irregularities, and omissions described in this report and refrain from invoking inappropriate, discriminatory stereotypes such as those identified by the IACHR in the rulings that were annulled. The state should also initiate an ex officio investigation into the actions of the medical officials and other officials who committed or contributed to the violations described in the report.

4. Implement measures of nonrepetition that include the adoption of legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure that officials who come into contact with reports of sexual violence against children and adolescents have been properly trained to investigate and prosecute these, in order to ensure that they carry out their duties with a gender and children’s rights perspective and in accordance with the standards set out in this Merits Report.

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 and to defend 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. 194/20