IACHR Publishes Friendly Settlement Report on the Sexual Violence Case Concerning Martha María Saire in Honduras

October 5, 2021

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Friendly Settlement Report No.204/21

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced its decision to approve and publish Friendly Settlement Report No.204/21 on Case 11.545, Martha María Saire, concerning Honduras, which was signed on June 30, 2003, between the State of Honduras and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and Casa Alianza, the petitioning organizations. The case concerns the alleged violation of the human rights to personal integrity, judicial guarantees, and judicial protection and the rights of the child, which are protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. These rights were violated to the detriment of Martha, who was allegedly the victim of rape in 1994, when she was 11 years old.

The petition presented to the IACHR in 1995 alleged that Martha Saire, a girl living with a mental disability, was raped by two security guards at the Women's Social Adaptation Center (CEFAS). The alleged perpetrators belonged to the Special Tactical Group of the Honduran Army and had been assigned to the Juvenile Guidance Home in Támara, where Martha was being housed after having been homeless in San Pedro Sula.

On June 30, 2003, the parties signed a friendly settlement agreement in which the Honduran State acknowledged its international responsibility for the violations of the rights to personal integrity and the rights of the child to the detriment of Martha Saire. The state undertook to issue a birth certificate for Martha Saire; try and sentence those responsible for these violations; maintain the personnel need to provide care and assistance for Martha; and adopt measures to support her medical, psychological, and social rehabilitation and gradual social reintegration.

Subsequently, on March 26, 2021, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding to amend the friendly settlement agreement to bring it in line with the updated standards on the protection of the rights of people living with disabilities. In it, the parties agreed on the creation of a Comprehensive Support Plan, in which Martha played an active role, to guarantee her autonomy in making decisions that affect her, in light of the principles of respect for dignity, autonomy, independence, self-determination, and social inclusion. This plan includes the creation of a Support Committee to monitor the implementation of a comprehensive care program; the carrying out of a mental health assessment; and the creation of a capacity-building plan and support mechanism, which the parties will be involved in.

In its decision, the IACHR observed that multiple factors of vulnerability converge in the case of Martha Saire, as she is a woman with a mental disability, was a victim of (repeated) sexual violence, was homeless and lived in a situation of extreme poverty, and was also the victim of various violations of her rights to health and to informed consent while the friendly settlement process was unfolding, notably when she was subjected to prolonged institutionalization in a psychiatric hospital. Accordingly, it established in its report that the treatment Martha receives should be preferential and particularly appropriate to her situation, respecting her dignity, autonomy, independence, self-determination, and social inclusion, with a focus on the satisfaction of her economic, social and cultural rights.

With regard to the degree of compliance with the agreement, in its report, the IACHR assessed the progress made on each of the clauses in the original friendly settlement agreement and the subsequent amendment, and decided to declare full compliance with paragraph (a) of clause 4 of the 2003 document, concerning medical, psychological and social rehabilitation and progressive social reintegration, and paragraph (b), keeping the IACHR informed. It also decided to declare partial compliance with the second clause of the Memorandum of Understanding of March 2021, concerning the upkeep of the personnel needed to provide Martha Saire with care and assistance. However, it deemed that compliance had not yet been reached on the following two clauses of the Memorandum: clause three, paragraphs (a) the creation of a Support Committee to monitor the implementation of a comprehensive care program for Martha Saire; (b) the carrying out of a mental health assessment; (c) the creation of a capacity-building plan and support mechanism; (d) the creation of a support mechanism, with Martha's involvement; and clause five, paragraph (a) the creation of the Support Committee.

Consequently, the IACHR decided to continue monitoring the aspects of the agreement that had not yet been fully complied with until these are effectively implemented.

The IACHR congratulated the state of Honduras on its efforts to develop public policy on friendly settlements and alternative forms of dispute resolution. It also invited the State to continue to use the friendly settlement mechanism in cases concerning the country that are currently being processed through the petition and case system. It also wishes to congratulate the petitioning party on the efforts it made to take part in the negotiation and move the friendly settlement process forward.

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. 264/21

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