Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Nicaragua to the Inter-American Court

September 26, 2016

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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 12.690 V.R.P and V.P.C, with regard to Nicaragua.

The case is related to the sexual assault suffered by the girl V.R.P, who at the time of the events was nine years old and who from the beginning of the investigation argued that his father was responsible for those violations. The Commission determined that the sexual assaults committed by a non-state actor constituted violations to the rights to personal integrity, dignity, private life and autonomy, to equality and non-discrimination and to special protection as a girl, in detriment of V.R.P. The Commission established that the State of Nicaragua is internationally responsible for the failure to guarantee those rights, particularly, the non-compliance of its duty to investigate with due diligence, in a reasonable period of time and with a gender-sensitive approach as well as the reinforced duties of the State derived from the victim’s condition of being a girl. The Commission also considered that V.R.P was severely re-victimized with a serious impact on her psychological integrity, as well as her mother’s and siblings’. The Commission concluded that the acquittal of V.R.P’s father was the result of a violation to the international obligations of the State and therefore, given that it was a serious violation of human rights, the Commission recommended the continuity of the investigation in the domestic level, amongst other remedial measures.

In the Merits Report, the Commission recommended the State to carry out with due diligence and in a reasonable time the corresponding investigations and criminal procedures, in order to individualize, identify, judge and, if applicable, sanction the person responsible for sexually assaulting V.R.P. The IACHR took note that the judgement of criminal acquittal against the only person accused by the victim is firm. In this regard, the Commission reaffirmed that the legal procedure of the events that ended up in V.R.S’s sexual assault was not conducted in accordance with the international obligations of the State of Nicaragua under the American Convention and the Belém do Pará Convention. For this reason, the IACHR considers that in the present case, the legal diligences were not adjusted to due-process guarantees stated in article 8 of the American Convention and, for that matter, neither was the “non-appealable ruling” stated in the numeral 4 of the same article. The Commission highlights that this situation is exacerbated by the nature of the offence, as well as the situation of double vulnerability of V.P.R as a woman and a child. Taking this into consideration, the IACHR considers that, in the present case, the guarantee of not being judged two times for the same crime (ne bis in ídem) cannot be used by the State in order not to comply with the recommendation to investigate.

The IACHR also recommended the integral reparation of the violations to human rights declared in the merits report both in material and moral aspects, and providing the medical and psychological or psychiatric treatment to the victims of the present case who request it, immediately and for free. Bearing in mind that the victims are outside the country, this recommendation can be complied by the provision of a reasonable financial amount that allows paying for the health attention required by the victims. Additionally, the Commission recommended adopting the relevant administrative, disciplinary or legal measures against the actions or omissions made by State employees that contributed to the denial of justice and impunity in which the events remain to this date.

In the Merits Report, the IACHR also recommended Nicaragua to develop investigation protocols so that sexual assault cases and other forms of sexual violence against women, including girls, are correctly investigated and judged in conformity with the standards established in the report. Nicaragua should also reinforce the institutional capacity to fight against impunity in cases of sexual assault and other forms of violence against women, including girls, by carrying effective criminal investigations from a gender approach, guaranteeing an appropriate sanction and reparation.  Additionally, the Commission pointed that Nicaragua must design and implement permanent training programs for public officers belonging to the Judicial Authority, Public Ministry and National Police, over international standards in matters of investigation of sexual violations and other forms of sexual violence against women, including girls. Moreover, health personnel must be trained, both medic and psychological, regarding to the international standards regards the treatment of boys and girls who are victims of sexual assault. Finally, the IACHR recommended adopting public policies and integral institutional programs in order to face the violence against women and girls as ways of discrimination, as well as promoting the eradication of socio-cultural discriminatory patterns that prevent the access to justice.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court on August 25, 2016, because it considered that Nicaragua did not comply with the recommendations stated in the Merits Report. The Commission submitted to the Court all the facts contained in the Merits Report.

This case will enable the Court to develop its jurisprudence on international standards important for the analysis of the compliance or non-compliance of the component of investigation in the duty to guarantee the rights to personal integrity, private life and autonomy and living free of violence and discrimination, in cases of violence and sexual assault committed by non-state actors.  In addition, the Court could develop its jurisprudence over special and reinforced standards applicable to the analysis of investigations of events of this magnitude when the victim is a child. Finally, the case will also enable the Court to pronounce itself over the non-applicability of the ne bis in idem figure, in cases of a grave violation of human rights such as  violence and sexual assault, and when the acquittal of the alleged aggressor was the result of a process which violates the State’s international duties.

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. 138/16