Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Bolivia to the Inter-American Court

June 9, 2015

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12.655, I.V., with regard to Bolivia.

The case concerns the sterilization to which Mrs. I.V. was subjected in a public hospital in Bolivia on July 1, 2000. The surgery, which consisted of a bilateral tubal ligation, resulted in the permanent, forced sterilization of Mrs. I.V. It was performed after a cesarean section, without the informed consent of Mrs. I.V. and even though this was not an emergency situation. The Commission concluded that the surgical intervention constituted a violation of Mrs. I.V.’s physical and psychological integrity, as well as of her right to live free of violence and discrimination and her right to access to information and to a private and family life, understanding that reproductive autonomy is part of such rights. The Commission also concluded that the State did not provide the victim with an effective judicial response to these violations.

In its Merits Report on the case, the Commission recommended that the State of Bolivia provide full reparation to the victim for the human rights violations that were established, taking into consideration her perspective and needs, including compensation for the material and moral damages she suffered; provide I.V. with high-quality medical treatment, tailored to her needs and appropriate to treat the conditions she suffers from; investigate the facts related to the sterilization of I.V. without her consent and establish the appropriate responsibility and punishment; and adopt the non-repetition measures necessary so that similar incidents do not happen in the future, and in particular, review the policies and practices applied at all hospitals with respect to obtaining patients’ informed consent. The Commission also recommended that the State adopt legislation, public policies, programs, and directives to ensure respect for every person’s right to be informed and guided on health matters and not to be submitted to interventions or treatments without his or her informed consent, when applicable; investigate the flawed practices of the judiciary and related agencies that allow extended delays in judicial proceedings; and adopt any measures that may be necessary to guarantee effective access to justice through due process and a prompt and efficient administration of justice.

The Inter-American Commission submitted Case 12.655 to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction on April 23, 2015, because it deemed that the State of Bolivia had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Commission’s Merits Report. The Commission submitted to the Court the entirety of the facts in Merits Report 72/14.

This case will enable the Inter-American Court to develop case law on the positive and negative obligations that the rights to health and to sexual and reproductive autonomy impose on the States, rights derived from various norms of the American Convention. In addition, the Court will be able to issue an opinion for the first time on the scope of international responsibility and the rights involved in a matter not yet addressed in its case law, that is, a case of forced sterilization. In particular, the Court will be able to rule on informed consent, especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health, as well as on the conditions and requirements for such consent to be manifested in order for it to be considered compatible with the State’s international obligations.

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. 064/15