Women and Justice: Jurisdiction

International Case Law

Jessica Lenahan Gonzales v. United States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2011)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Jessica Gonzales petitioned that her human rights had not been protected. Previously the Supreme Court had ruled that her Due Process rights had not been violated after police didn't enforce a restraining order against her ex-husband, who subsequently murdered her three children. The Commission ruled that the state had not properly protected Jessica and recommended legislative reform to better protect women and children against domestic violence.



Women and girls victims of sexual violence living in 22 internally displaced persons camps, Precautionary Measures No. MC-340-10 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2010)

Sexual violence and rape

On October 21, 2010, ten groups* filed a request on behalf of displaced women in Haiti for precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). The groups asked the Commission to grant the request pursuant to Article 25 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure as an urgent measure to address the multiple acts of sexual violence that women and girls in the displacement camps faced after the devastating 2010 earthquake. A report detailing the atrocities committed against women brutally attacked in the displacement camps accompanied the request. In January 2011, the Commission granted the request and issued precautionary measures and recommendations. These included sensitive and integral access to medical care for victims of sexual violence, implementation of security measures, and training of officials to deal with sexual violence and assault (including special units in the police and increased patrols). The Commission also requested that Haiti ensure the full participation of grassroots women’s groups in the planning and implementation of policies designed to combat and prevent sexual violence. Further, the Commission recommended that emergency contraception be provided for all victims of sexual violence. This decision was without precedent in the Inter-American System of Human Rights when decided. *Women’s Link Worldwide, the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic of the City University of New York (CUNY), MADRE, Bureau des Acvocats Internationaux, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Morrison & Foerster LLP, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Haitian organizations KOFAVIV, FAVILEK, and KONAMAVID.



Maria Merciadri de Morini v. Argentina Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2001)

Gender discrimination

Maria Merciadri de Morini v. Argentina, Argentina, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2001. Gender Discrimination, Political Rights, Equal Protection, Due Process. Ms. Maria Merciadri de Morini’s political party produced an election ballot that violated Argentine law. The law required election ballots to include 30% of women candidates. Ms. Merciadri de Morini’s political party only placed one woman out of five candidates where, by law, there should have been at least two women on the ballot. Ms. Merciadri de Morini brought suit against the political party for the violation of the voting law. Ms. Merciadri de Morini attempted to exhaust domestic remedies but the Argentine domestic courts violated her rights to due process and equal protection by continuously rejecting her claim. Ms. Merciadri de Morini petitioned her case to IACHR. Argentina ultimately responded to the allegation and dictated to the IACHR that the two parties had come to a friendly settlement. Argentina changed the way it regulated the voting law and recognized the violations against all women including Ms. Merciadri de Morini. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights approved the friendly settlement between Ms. Merciadri de Morini and Argentina.

 

La señora María Merciadri, cuyo caso, "Morini contra Argentina," fue visto ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en el 2001. Se analizó la discriminación de género, derechos políticos, igualdad de protección, y debido proceso. El partido político de la Sra. Maria Merciadri de Morini produjo una boleta electoral que violaba la ley argentina. La ley exigía que las boletas electorales incluyeran el 30% de las candidatas. El partido político de la Sra. Merciadri de Morini solo colocó a una mujer de cada cinco candidatas donde, por ley, debería haber al menos dos mujeres en la boleta electoral. La Sra. Merciadri de Morini presentó una demanda contra el partido político por la violación de la ley de votación. La Sra. Merciadri de Morini intentó agotar los recursos internos, pero los tribunales nacionales argentinos violaron sus derechos al debido proceso y la igual protección al rechazar continuamente su reclamo. La Sra. Merciadri de Morini solicitó su caso a la CIDH. Argentina finalmente respondió a la acusación y dictó a la CIDH que las dos partes habían llegado a un acuerdo amistoso. Argentina cambió la forma en que regulaba la ley de votación y reconoció las violaciones contra todas las mujeres, incluída la Sra. Merciadri de Morini. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos aprobó el acuerdo amistoso entre la Sra. Merciadri de Morini y Argentina.



Ana, Beatriz, and Celia González Pérez v. Mexico Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (1999)

Sexual violence and rape

Sexual Violence and Rape, Torture, Indigenous Populations, Failure of State Responsibility. The Mexican military illegally detained, raped, and tortured the Tzeltal native sisters Ana, Beatriz, and Celia González Pérez. The Mexican State argued that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) did not have competence to review the petition because the sisters did not exhaust their domestic remedies. According to the IACHR, the sisters effectively sought relief from the Office of the Federal Public Prosecutor, which refused competence to review the sisters’ case in favor of its military counterpart. The IACHR determined the case admissible in respect of the alleged violations of rights protected in the American Convention on Human Rights: Articles 5 (right to humane treatment); 7 (right to personal liberty); 8 (right to a fair trial); 11 (right to privacy); 19 (rights of the child); and 25 (right to judicial protection).

 

Violencia y violación sexual, tortura, poblaciones indígenas, falta de responsabilidad del Estado. El ejército mexicano detuvo ilegalmente, violó y torturó a las hermanas nativas de Tzeltal, Ana, Beatriz y Celia González Pérez. El Estado mexicano sostuvo que la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) no tenía el poder para revisar la petición porque las hermanas no agotaron sus recursos internos. Según la CIDH, las hermanas buscaron efectivamente un alivio en la Oficina del Fiscal Federal, que se negó a revisar el caso de las hermanas a favor de su homólogo militar. La CIDH determinó el caso admisible en relación con las presuntas violaciones de los derechos protegidos en la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos: artículos 5 (derecho a un trato humano); 7 (derecho a la libertad personal); 8 (derecho a un juicio justo); 11 (derecho a la privacidad); 19 (derechos del niño); y 25 (derecho a la protección judicial).



Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo v. Nicaragua Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2001)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

Ms. Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo suffered physical (sexual abuse, rape, and sexual harassment) and psychological violence by her adoptive father, Mr. Daniel Ortega Saavedra. Mr. Ortega was a deputy in Nicaragua’s National Assembly and protected by congressional immunity from charges against him. Ms. Murillo argued to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Nicaraguan state denied her from enjoying access to justice for the restitution of her violated rights. The IACHR decided on whether Ms. Murillo adequately exhausted domestic remedies, which would then allow the IACHR to competently review her petition. Ms. Murillo claimed to have exhausted domestic remedies by filing suit against Mr. Daniel Ortega with the First District Criminal Court in Managua while at the same time requesting the National Assembly to suspend Mr. Ortega’s congressional immunity. The Nicaraguan State argued that Ms. Murillo did not fully exhaust domestic remedies because the National Assembly created a Special Commission to determine Mr. Ortega’s immunity and because Ms. Murillo did not file for amparo relief against the National Assembly Steering Committee’s resolutions. The IACHR held that waiting over three years for the National Assembly to reply to Ms. Murillo’s request for suspension of Mr. Ortega’s immunity was not an appropriate judicial remedy. Although all domestic remedies were not exhausted, Ms. Murillo did adequately seek available domestic judicial redress; therefore, full exhaustion of domestic remedies was not needed to determine the competency of the IACHR. Further, the IACHR held that Ms. Murillo’s petition met the admissibility requirements and that the IACHR was competent to review this case.

 

La Sra. Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo sufrió violencia física (abuso sexual, violación y acoso sexual) y violencia psicológica por parte de su padre adoptivo, el Sr. Daniel Ortega Saavedra. El Sr. Ortega era diputado en la Asamblea Nacional de Nicaragua y estaba protegido por la inmunidad del Congreso de los cargos en su contra. La Sra. Murillo argumentó ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) que el estado nicaragüense le negó el acceso a la justicia para la restitución de sus derechos violados. La CIDH analizó si la Sra. Murillo habia agotado adecuadamente los recursos internos, lo que permitiría a la CIDH revisar de manera competente su petición. La Sra. Murillo afirmó haber agotado los recursos internos al presentar una demanda contra el Sr. Daniel Ortega ante el Tribunal Penal del Primer Distrito en Managua, mientras que al mismo tiempo le pedía a la Asamblea Nacional que suspendiera la inmunidad de él. El Estado nicaragüense argumentó que la Sra. Murillo no agotó completamente los recursos internos porque la Asamblea Nacional creó una Comisión Especial para determinar la inmunidad del Sr. Ortega y porque la Sra. Murillo no presentó una demanda de amparo contra las resoluciones del Comité Directivo de la Asamblea Nacional. La CIDH sostuvo que esperar tres años antes de que la Asamblea Nacional respondiera a la solicitud de suspensión de la inmunidad de Ortega por parte de la Sra. Murillo no era un recurso judicial apropiado. Aunque no se agotaron todos los recursos internos, la Sra. Murillo buscó adecuadamente la reparación judicial interna disponible; por lo tanto, el agotamiento total de los recursos internos no fue necesario para evaluar la competencia de la CIDH. Además, la CIDH sostuvo que la petición de la Sra. Murillo cumplía con los requisitos de admisibilidad y que la CIDH era competente para revisar este caso.



Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo v. Nicaragua Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2009)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

Ms. Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo suffered physical (sexual abuse, rape, and sexual harassment) and psychological violence by her adoptive father, Mr. Daniel Ortega Saavedra. Mr. Ortega was a deputy in Nicaragua’s National Assembly and protected by congressional immunity from charges against him. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held in 2001 that it had competence to review Ms. Murillo’s petition. The IACHR withheld on deciding the case on the merits in hopes that the parties would amicably come to a settlement. On June 9, 2009, Ms. Murillo sent a communication to the IACHR, which expressed her willingness to withdraw the lawsuit against the state of Nicaragua. Ms. Murillo requested that the IACHR keep the reasons of her amicable withdraw confidential.

La Sra. Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo sufrió violencia física (abuso sexual, violación y acoso sexual) y violencia psicológica por parte de su padre adoptivo, el Sr. Daniel Ortega Saavedra. El Sr. Ortega era diputado en la Asamblea Nacional de Nicaragua y estaba protegido por la inmunidad del Congreso de los cargos en su contra. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) sostuvo en 2001 que tenía competencia para revisar la petición de la Sra. Murillo. La CIDH se negó a decidir el caso en cuanto al fondo con la esperanza de que las partes llegaran a un acuerdo amistoso. En efecto, el 9 de junio de 2009, la Sra. Murillo envió una comunicación a la CIDH, que expresaba su disposición a retirar la demanda contra el estado de Nicaragua. La Sra. Murillo solicitó a la CIDH que mantuviera la confidencialidad de los motivos de su retiro amistoso.



Maria Mamerita Mestanza Chavez v. Peru Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2003)

Forced sterilization

Forced sterilization.  A complaint was raised against Peru for the forced sterilization of Mestanza Chavez, forced sterilization which eventually caused her death. The complaint alleged that she was pressured into sterilization as part of a government objective to curve the population numbers of poor, Indian and rural women. After the sterilization, Mestanza Chavez fell ill from complications and eventually died.  The complaint alleged the violation of Articles 4, 5, 1, and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights,  Articles 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, Articles 3 and 10 of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and Articles 12 and 14(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The parties reached a friendly settlement under which Peru agreed to investigate and punish those responsible for the forced sterilization, pay the victim's next of kin moral and corollary damages, pay the victim's medical expenses to her next of kin, provide her children with free primary, provide secondary and public university education to the victim's children, and pay money for the victim's spouse to purchase a home. Peru also agreed to amend its reproductive laws to eliminate any discriminatory policies within such laws.



Report on Admissibility of Jessica Gonzales and Others v. United States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2007)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

State duty to enforce court-ordered protective order.  Jessica Gonzales' three children were killed when local police failed to enforced a restraining order against her estranged husband.  The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that no affirmative duty exists on the part of the government to enforce a protective order.



Paulina Del Carmen Ramirez Jacinto v. Mexico Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2007)

Sexual violence and rape

Forced motherhood after rape. A complaint was lodged against Mexico for failing to allow a minor to receive an abortion after she was raped. The complaint alleged the violation of Articles 1, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 19, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 4, 7, and 9 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, Article 10 of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Articles 9, 17, and 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 3 and 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Articles 19, 37, and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Mexico and the petitioner reached a friendly settlement under which the government of Baja California would pay the victim's legal and medical expenses, provide her with school and housing expense assistance, medical and psychological services, free public higher education for her child, a computer and a printer, moral damages. The Mexican state also committed itself to increasing awareness and availability of legal termination of pregnancy.

Maternidad forzada tras la violación. Se presentó una queja contra México por no permitir que un menor de edad se hiciera un aborto después de haber sido violada. La denuncia alegó la violación de los artículos 1, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 19 y 25 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos, los artículos 1, 2, 4, 7 y 9 de la Convención Interamericana sobre la Prevención, sanción y erradicación de la violencia contra la mujer, artículo 10 del Protocolo adicional a la Convención Americana en materia de derechos económicos, sociales y culturales, artículos 9, 17 y 24 del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, Artículos 3 y 12 de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, artículo 12 de la Convención sobre la eliminación de todas las formas de discriminación contra la mujer y artículos 19, 37 y 39 de la Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño. México y la peticionaria llegaron a un acuerdo amistoso en virtud del cual el gobierno de Baja California pagaría los gastos legales y médicos de la víctima, le proporcionaría asistencia para gastos escolares y de vivienda, servicios médicos y psicológicos, educación superior pública gratuita para su hijo, una computadora e impresora, mas compensacion por daños morales. El estado mexicano también se comprometió a aumentar la conciencia y la disponibilidad de la interrupción legal del embarazo.



X and Y v. Argentina Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (1996)

Custodial violence, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment

Vaginal inspections for visits to family inmates.  A complaint was brought against Argentina by a woman and her 13-year old daughter who were routinely subjected to vaginal inspections when they would visit the woman's husband (and girl's father) at a prison. The complaint alleged that such inspections violated the "American Convention as it offends the dignity of the persons subjected to such a procedure (Article 11), and is a degrading penal measure which extends beyond the person condemned or on trial (Article 5.3) and, furthermore, discriminates against women (Article 24), in relation to Article 1.1."  Argentina argued that such inspections were reasonably necessary and conducted with as little intrusion as possible by female guards. The Commission opined that such an inspection should not occur unless absolutely necessary. In this case, the Court found that the procedure was not absolutely necessary as there were alternatives that could achieve the same objective. The Commission also held that in cases where such an inspection was absolutely necessary, they should only be carried out by pursuant to a judicial order, and by qualified medical personnel. The Commission found the inspections in this case to violate Articles 5, 11, 17, 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

 

Inspecciones vaginales para visitas a familiares de internos. Una mujer y su hija de 13 años de edad fueron sometidas de forma rutinaria a una inspección vaginal cuando visitaban al marido de la mujer (y al padre de la niña) en una prisión, por lo cual demandan a Argentina. La queja alegó que tales inspecciones violaron la "Convención Americana, ya que ofende la dignidad de las personas sometidas a tal procedimiento (Artículo 11), y es una medida penal degradante que se extiende más allá de la persona condenada o enjuiciada (Artículo 5.3) y además, discrimina a las mujeres (artículo 24), en relación con el artículo 1.1 ". Argentina argumentó que tales inspecciones eran necesarias y que se llevaron a cabo con la menor intrusión posible de las guardias. La Comisión opinó que tal inspección no debería ocurrir a menos que sea absolutamente necesario. En este caso, el Tribunal consideró que el procedimiento no era absolutamente necesario ya que había alternativas que podrían lograr el mismo objetivo. La Comisión también sostuvo que en los casos en que dicha inspección fuera absolutamente necesaria, solo deberían llevarse a cabo de conformidad con una orden judicial y por personal médico calificado. La Comisión consideró que las inspecciones en este caso violan los artículos 5, 11, 17 y 19 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos.



Maria da Penha Fernandes v. Brazil Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2000)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, International law

The Applicant, Maria da Penha Fernandes, brought this case to the Inter-American Commission, arguing that Brazil effectively condoned violence against women through ineffective judicial and prosecutorial action. The Applicant was shot in the back by her husband while she was sleeping.  She survived, but was paralyzed from the waist down.  Her husband received a sentence of two years in prison after 19 years of trial.  The Inter-American Commission found that the delays and the lack of protections in Brazil for domestic violence survivors amounted to violations of da Penha's human right to live free from violence and to access justice.



Monica Carabantes Galleguillos v. Chile Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2002)

Gender discrimination

Discrimination against pregnant girl in school.  Chile agreed to cover the educational expenses of a pregnant teenager who was expelled from her school for being pregnant.



X and Relatives v. Colombia Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2008)

Sexual violence and rape

Rape by military members. Case was brought before the Commission against Colombia for failing to prosecute members of the Colombian military for sexually assaulting the victim. The Complaint sought to have Colombia assume international responsibility for violating articles 1(1), 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as Articles I, V, VII, XI, XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Colombia and the petitioners were able to reach a friendly settlement under which the victim was awarded moral and material damages. Under the friendly settlement, Colombia also agreed to pay for the victim's education, provide her with medical and psychological services, and other necessary services to fully compensate the victim and her family. Colombia also agreed to reopen the criminal investigation and to work with the victim to fully investigate and prosecute her case.



Maria Eugenia Morales de Sierra v. Guatemala Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2001)

Gender discrimination

Discrimination in marriage.  Challenge to Articles 109, 110, 113, 114, 115, 131, 133, 255 and 317 of the Guatemalan Civil Code, which define role of each spouse within the institution of marriage, creating distinctions between men and women in violation of Articles 1(1), 2, 17 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

 

Discriminación en el matrimonio. Desafío a los artículos 109, 110, 113, 114, 115, 131, 133, 255 y 317 del Código Civil de Guatemala, los cuáles definen el papel de cada cónyuge dentro de la institución del matrimonio, creando distinciones entre hombres y mujeres en violación de los artículos 1 ( 1), 2, 17 y 24 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos.



J. v. Peru, Report No. 76/11, Case 11,769A Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2011)

Custodial violence

In April 1992, the Petitioner, Mónica Feria Tinta, was arrested during a raid by DINCOTE, the counter-terrorism branch of the Peruvian police. The police believed that Ms. Tinta was a member of the Sendero Luminoso, a communist militant group in Peru. During the raid, Ms. Tinta was blindfolded, beaten and raped by some of the police officers. When Ms. Tinta protested the sexual violence, the officers beat and kicked her. After the raid, the officers took Ms. Tinta to a DINCOTE facility, where she was detained for more than a year in cells infested with roaches and rats. While detained, DINCOTE officers deprived Ms. Tinta of access to her attorney, forced her to urinate in a can in the presence of two male officers, and doused her with cold water if she resisted their orders. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “IACHR”) found that the Peru violated Ms. Tinta’s rights by failing to conduct a serious investigation of her claims, even though her claims “fit a pattern known to have existed at that time” and involved violence (¶ 207). According to the IACHR, Peru had a duty to investigate Ms. Tinta’s claims of rape, including ordering medical tests and examinations, to either corroborate or disprove Ms. Tinta’s claims. The IACHR concluded that Peru, inter alia, violated the rights recognized in articles 5(1), 5(2) and 11 of the American Convention on Human Rights (the “American Convention”), as well as Article 1 and 6 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. Noting its well-established precedent that “rape committed by members of the security forces of a state against the civilian population constitutes, in any situation, a serious violation of the human rights protected by Articles 5 and 11 of the American Convention,” the IACHR established that rape is particularly reprehensible when it perpetrated by a state agent against a detainee, because of the victim’s vulnerability and the agent’s abuse of power (¶ 188). In addition, noting that various reports had shown a pattern of rape and sexual abuse against women by members of Peru’s security forces, the IACHR found that such sexual violence was part of a “broader context of discrimination against women” (¶ 65).