Press Release

IACHR Takes Case on Guatemala to the IA Court HR

June 7, 2012

Washington, D.C., - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.578, María Isabel Véliz Franco et al., Guatemala.

The facts of this case have to do with the lack of an effective response by the Guatemalan State to the complaint Rosa Elvira Franco Sandoval filed with the Public Ministry on December 17, 2001, to report the disappearance of her 15-year-old daughter, María Isabel Véliz Franco, as well as subsequent failings in the investigation of the facts. A series of irregularities occurred during the investigation into the disappearance and subsequent death of María Isabel Véliz Franco; these included the failure to take appropriate steps when she was reported missing, flaws in the preservation of the crime scene when her body was discovered, and deficiencies in the handling and analysis of the evidence that was gathered. While the case was being processed by the IACHR, the State accepted blame for the lack of due diligence in the investigation process with respect to the death of María Isabel Véliz Franco, specifically for the failure to conduct certain forensic tests on her body; the delay in the investigation, caused by a conflict over territorial jurisdiction; and for its not having established an effective precautionary measure to ensure that the murder suspect would appear in court. The crime remains unpunished, thus creating an environment conducive to the chronic repetition of acts of violence against women.

The case was sent to the IA Court HR on May 3, 2012, because the Commission considered that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits. In that report, the Inter-American Commission recommended to that State that it complete a timely, immediate, serious and impartial investigation to solve the murder of María Isabel Véliz Franco and to identify, prosecute and, if appropriate, punish those responsible; to make full reparations to the next of kin of María Isabel Véliz Franco; as a measure of non-repetition, introduce a comprehensive and coordinated State policy, backed by sufficient public funds, to ensure that the specific cases of violence against women are properly prevented, investigated, prosecuted and redressed; introduce reforms in the State’s educational programs, starting in the early, formative years, so as to promote respect for women as equals and observance of their rights to nonviolence and nondiscrimination; investigate the irregularities committed by agents of the State in their investigation of the case and punish those responsible; bolster the institutional capacity to combat impunity in cases of violence against women, through effective criminal investigations conducted from a gender perspective and that have constant judicial oversight, thereby ensuring proper punishment and redress; take measures and launch campaigns designed to make the general public aware of the duty to respect and ensure the human rights of children; adopt comprehensive public policies and institutional programs designed to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes about women’s role and to promote the eradication of discriminatory socio-cultural patterns that prevent women’s full access to justice; this should include training programs for public officials in all sectors of government, including education, the various sectors involved in the administration of justice, the police, as well as comprehensive policies on prevention.

In addition, the case involves issues of inter-American public order in relation to the duty of the States to carry out serious, diligent, and effective investigations in relation to acts of violence and discrimination against women that answer to the seriousness of the crime and to the especial duty of due diligence when the victims are girls. Another issue of inter-American public order is the duty of the States to establish legislation and public policies to punish and fight the practices of discrimination and violence against women, as well as their obligation to ensure that all acts of violence based on gender do not remain in impunity.

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. 60/12