IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Peru Over the Arrest of an Indigenous Adolescent Woman Subjected to Torture and Sexual Violence While in Police Custody

October 27, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on July 5, 2023, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court H.R.) in Case 12,964, with regard to Peru. This case concerns the international responsibility of the Peruvian State for the arrest in 1980 of 17-year-old Georgina Gamboa García and for the acts of torture and sexual violence committed against this indigenous Quechua girl while in the custody of Peru's Police. This case concerns the international responsibility of the Peruvian State for failing to adequately investigate these events and to punish their perpetrators.

These events happened in a context of widespread and systematic torture and sexual violence against women, during the armed conflict in Peru in the 1980s.

In December 1980, Georgina Gamboa García and her mother voluntarily went to police facilities in the town of Vilcashuamán to testify about crimes involving members of the organization Shining Path. At the police station, they were told they would be detained until the girl's father turned up at the site, which he did three days later. In January 1981, members of the Civil Guard violently stormed the family's home and arrested the girl again. On the night of that arrest, she was taken to a cell, where she was tortured and repeatedly raped by seven police officers.

Medical examinations confirmed that Georgina Gamboa had been raped and found that she was pregnant. Her daughter was born in October 1981. Georgina Gamboa repeatedly presented herself as a victim of rape and torture, despite receiving death threats for doing so.

Her allegations led to an investigation that was temporarily shelved by the public prosecutor's office in January 1982, with the argument that it had not been possible to identify the men involved. Later, a new investigation ended on December 10, 1985, with a court decision absolving the suspects.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR considered that the abuse suffered by Georgina Gamboa García amounted to torture and to a serious violation of her right to humane treatment. Further, her arrests were unlawful and arbitrary and therefore violated her right to personal liberty. The IACHR's report also found that Georgina Gamboa should have been granted special protection, given that she was an adolescent, and that she should never have been deprived of liberty for more than 16 days without being taken before a judge. The length of her arrest far exceeded the 48-hour detention period allowed by the constitution that was in force in Peru at the time.

The Commission found that the State had failed to provide Georgina, her daughter, and her brothers with the medical and psychological care they required. According to the Commission's report, the State also failed to take into consideration the aftereffects that these traumatic events had on them, Georgina Gamboa's specific vulnerability as an adolescent, and the fact that the girl and her daughter suffered threefold discrimination, for being women, being indigenous, and living in extreme poverty.

Concerning judicial proceedings, the IACHR found that the first court case took place four years after these events happened, failed to respect the victim's judicial guarantees, and was shelved for lack of due diligence. The court decision also minimized sexual violence, with reference to gender-based and sociocultural stereotypes. No adequate interviews or medical and psychological examinations were conducted, and the healthcare workers who assisted Georgina Gamboa García did not report signs of torture and rape.

The Commission also found that the decision to shelve the second investigation in 2011 was unjustified and that impunity in connection with these events persists to this day, so the State has failed to do its due diligence.

Finally, the State is also responsible for a violation of the right to humane treatment of members of Georgina Gamboa García's family, due to the serious emotional harm and social stigmatization they suffered in connection with these events and their subsequent impunity.

The Commission found that the State was responsible for violations of the rights held in Articles 5 (humane treatment), 7 (personal liberty), 8 (fair trial), 11 (privacy), 19 (rights of the child), and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention, in keeping with the obligations held in Article 1.1 of the same instrument. The IACHR further concluded that the State was liable for violations of Articles 1, 6, and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and of Article 7 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará) against Georgina Gamboa García and Article 5.1 against members of her family.

The Commission therefore recommended that the State of Peru adopt the following reparation measures:

  1. Provide full material and immaterial reparations to Georgina Gamboa García
  2. Provide Georgina Gamboa García and her family with adequate medical and psychological care, should they want it
  3. Conduct a diligent and timely investigation of these events, to identify and punish their perpetrators
  4. Take measures of non-recurrence, including the implementation of training programs for public prosecutors and other judicial officers in cases involving gender-based violence and discrimination, and implement protocols to assist victims of sexual violence during medical and forensic examinations

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. 252/23

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