Women and Justice: Keywords

International Case Law

Case of the Yakye Axa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2005)

Property and inheritance rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleged that, by not respecting ancestral property rights, the Government of Paraguay threatened the Yakye Axa Indigenous Community’s access to food, water and health care, and survival in violation of Articles 4 (right to life), 8 (right to fair trial), 21 (right to property) and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights. The court noted several specific examples of dangers faced by the women of the Community, including instances in which a woman was threatened by a man wielding a shotgun and another in which a woman was sexually exploited by State workers. The court noted that Paraguay was obligated to take into account the economic and social characteristics, special vulnerability, and customary laws, values and customs of indigenous peoples in order to effectively protect them, and found that Paraguay’s delay in recognizing the Community’s leadership, legal status and claims to land violated the Community’s rights to judicial protection, a fair trial, property, and ultimately a decent life. The court also found that the Community had a right to be granted legal status in order to take advantage of its members’ full rights as a people, and that Paraguay’s ongoing refusal to recognize that status was a violation of this right. As such, the court ordered that Paraguay provide the Community – “especially children, the elderly and pregnant women” -- with reparations, including compensation, food and water, sanitation, access to health care, and rightful title to their traditional territory.



Rosendo Cantu v. Mexico Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2010)

Sexual violence and rape

Rosendo Cantu was walking home when she was stopped and questioned by a group of soldiers. When she did not give the soldiers the answers they were looking for, two of the soldiers raped her while six others watched. Subsequent to the rape, the State failed to carry out an effective investigation into the allegations of sexual violence by members of the armed forces. The Inter-American Court held that Mexico had committed an act of turtler. It placed special importance on the vulnerable situation of Ms. Cantu given the fact that she was a minor and also a member of the indigenous community. It found Mexico in violation of the right to personal integrity, dignity, privacy, the rights of the child and due process rights. It also found that the State had failed to comply with its due diligence obligations to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women and the general obligation of non-discrimination in accessing justice. The Court ordered Mexico to pay monetary compensation for the harms suffered and to also ensure that Ms. Cantu's daughter received a scholarship to study.

Rosendo Cantu caminaba hacia su casa cuando fue detenida e interrogada por un grupo de soldados. Cuando no les dio a los soldados las respuestas que buscaban, dos de los soldados la violaron mientras que otros seis observaron. Luego de la violación, el Estado no realizó una investigación efectiva de las denuncias de violencia sexual cometida por miembros de las fuerzas armadas. La Corte Interamericana sostuvo que México había cometido un acto de turtler. La corte puso especial importancia en la situación de vulnerabilidad de la Sra. Cantu, dado que era menor de edad y también miembro de la comunidad indígena. Encontró a México en violación del derecho a la integridad personal, la dignidad, la privacidad, los derechos del niño y los derechos del debido proceso. También encontró que el Estado no había cumplido con sus obligaciones de diligencia debida para prevenir, investigar y sancionar la violencia contra las mujeres y la obligación general de no discriminación en el acceso a la justicia. El Tribunal ordenó a México que pagara una compensación monetaria por los daños sufridos y también para garantizar que la hija de la Sra. Cantu recibiera una beca para estudiar.



Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2010)

Gender discrimination

Karen Atala Riffo, a judge in Chile, and her husband separated in 2002 and agreed that she would retain custody of their three daughters. After a few years, Ms. Atala began to live with her female partner. In response, her husband filed for custody claiming that the mother’s homosexuality was detrimental to the children. The lower court confirmed the grant of custody to the mother, finding that there was no evidence that homosexuality was pathological conduct that would make Ms. Atala unfit as a mother. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court of Chile granted custody to the father, on the basis that the mother’s sexuality would cause irreversible harm to the children’s development. Ms. Atala took the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“IACHR”), marking the first time that the IACHR heard a case related to LGBT rights. The IACHR held that sexual orientation is a suspect class and that the Chilean courts had discriminated against Atala in the custody case in violation of the American Convention’s right to equality and non-discrimination. In 2012, the court ordered Chile to pay Atala USD $50,000 in damages and $12,000 in court costs. The Chilean government agreed to abide by the IACHR’s ruling.



Cantoral-Huamaní and García-Santa Cruz v. Peru Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2007)

Gender-based violence in general

The IACHR lodged an application against Peru for the violation, among other things, of the right to free association. Garcia-Santa Cruz was founder of a women's organization in a mining community, and provided support to the families of miners during a mining strike. Garcia-Santa Cruz was executed, and the Court held that her execution was an attempt to intimidate miners into not unionizing. The Court held this type of intimidation to be a violation of the freedom of association (Article 16 of the American Convention). The Court also found Peru to have violated Articles 1(1), 4, 5, 7, 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court ordered Peru to investigate and punish those who carried out these violations, to publicly acknowledge international responsibility for these violations, to provide psychological services to the victims' next of kin, and to pay pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages and costs.



De La Cruz-Flores v. Peru Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2004)

Gender-based violence in general

De La Cruz-Flores was detained, charged and convicted by a "faceless judge" for the crime of terrorism. In 2003, laws were passed ordering the annulment of judgments made by secret judges and practitioners. De La Cruz-Flores, however, remained in captivity, captivity she argued was arbitrary. The Court held that Peru violated De La Cruz-Flores's rights under Articles 1(1), 5, 7 and 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court ordered Peru to reinstate De La Cruz-Flores in her previous employment, grant her any previous retirement benefits, pay her costs, pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, grant her medical and psychological treatment and provide her with a grant for professional development.



Lori Berenson-Mejía v. Peru Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2004)

Custodial violence, Gender-based violence in general

The IACHR submitted an application to the Court to determine whether Peru violated Articles 1(1), 5, 8 and 9 of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Berenson-Mejia in relation to proceedings that took place against her before both military and civil courts, as well as to the inhumane conditions of detention to which she was subjected. The Court held that Peru violated Berenson-Mejia's right to humane treatment (Articles 5(1), 5(2) and 5(6) of the American Convention on Human Rights) due to the conditions she faced while incarcerated, violated Articles 1(1), 2, 8(1), 8(2), 8(2)(b)-(d), (f), and (h), 8(5) in relation to her military trial, but not to her civil trial. The Court ordered Peru to provide Berenson-Mejia with adequate medical care, to discharge the reparation established against her in favor of the State in her civil trial, to improve the conditions at the prison in which she was detained to meet international standards, and to pay costs and expenses.



María Elena Loayza-Tamayo v. Peru Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1997)

Custodial violence, Sexual violence and rape

Loayza-Tamayo was detained by the National Counter-Terrorism Bureau ("DINCOTE"). While detained, she was threatened with torture and was repeatedly raped in an effort to force her to confess to belonging to the Peruvian Communist Party ("Shining Path").  She was charged and found guilty of treason and was held in solitary confinement. She filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, alleging numerous human rights violations and requesting her release. The Commission, unable to reach a decision, submitted the case to the Inter-American Court. The Court held that Peru violated Articles 5, 7, 8(1), 8(2) and 8(4) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to Articles 25 and 1(1) thereof. The Court ordered that Loayza-Tamayo be released, and that she and her next of kin be compensated for any relevant expenses.



Miguel Castro-Castro Prison v. Peru Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2006)

Custodial violence, Sexual violence and rape

Approximately 135 female prison inmates (along with about 450 male inmates) were subjected to violent attacks by guards and other state agents over the course of three days at the Castro-Castro maximum security prison. Some female inmates were humiliated, stripped-down and subjected to further physical and psychological abuse. Many inmates were held in solitary confinement, were denied medical care, and were kept from communicating with their families or their attorneys. The Court found Peru to have violated Articles 4, 5(1), 5(2), 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, and Article 7(b) of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women.  The Court ordered Peru to investigate and punish those responsible for these violations, to return the bodies of any inmates killed to their next of kin, to publicly acknowledge and apologize for these violations, to provide at no cost medical and psychological treatment to the victimized inmates and next of kin, and to pay reparations to the victims or their next of kin.



Velasquez-Rodriguez Case Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1988)

Gender-based violence in general

States are responsible for private acts of violence (duty to investigate, prosecute and punish).



Molina-Theissen v. Guatemala Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2004)

Sexual violence and rape

This case was submitted to the Court by the IACtHR to determine if human rights violations were committed by Guatemala in relation to the forced disappearance of 14-year old Marco Antonio Molina Thiessen by the Guatemalan army. The Molina Thiessen family was comprised of left-leaning academics and was therefore considered a threat to the military regime in place at the time of the forced disappearance. Prior to child's disappearance, his sister, Emma Guadalupe, was detained and illegally incarcerated, during which time she was repeatedly raped and physically and psychologically tortured. She managed to escape and Marco Antonio's abduction was seen as retaliation against the family for Emma Guadalupe's escape. After the forced disappearance, the Molina Thiessen family never again saw Marco Antonio and was forced to seek political asylum in a number of other countries. Guatemala acknowledged its international responsibility for these incidents. The Court found Guatemala to have violated numerous articles of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Marco Antonio, and "Articles, 5(1) and 5(2) (Right to Humane Treatment); 8 (Right to a Fair Trial); 17 (Rights of the Family), and 25 (Judicial Protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, and that it failed to comply with the obligations established in Articles 1(1) (Obligation to Respect Rights) and 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) thereof, to the detriment of the next of kin of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen," including his sister, Emma Guadalupe.

Este caso fue presentado a la Corte por la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos para determinar si Guatemala cometió violaciones de los derechos humanos en relación con la desaparición del ejército guatemalteco de Marco Antonio Molina Thiessen, de 14 años. La familia Molina Thiessen estaba compuesta por académicos de izquierda politicamente y, por lo tanto, se consideraba una amenaza para el régimen militar vigente en el momento de la desaparición. Antes de la desaparición del niño, su hermana, Emma Guadalupe, fue detenida y encarcelada ilegalmente, tiempo durante el cual fue violada repetidamente y torturada física y psicológicamente. Ella logró escapar y el secuestro de Marco Antonio fue visto como una represalia contra la familia por su escape. Después de la desaparición de Marco Antonio, la familia Molina Thiessen nunca más volvió a verlo y se vio obligada a buscar asilo político en otros países. Guatemala reconoció su responsabilidad internacional por estos incidentes. La Corte determinó que Guatemala había violado numerosos artículos de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos en detrimento de Marco Antonio, y "Artículos, 5 (1) y 5 (2) (Derecho a un trato humano); 8 (Derecho a un juicio justo 17; (Derechos de la familia), y 25 (Protección judicial) de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos, y que no cumplió con las obligaciones establecidas en los Artículos 1 (1) (Obligación de respetar los derechos) y 2 (Derechos nacionales). Efectos legales), en el detrimento de los familiares de Marco Antonio Molina Theissen," incluída su hermana, Emma Guadalupe.



Plan de Sánchez Massacre v. Guatemala Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2004)

Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape

The IACHR submitted this case to the Court, alleging violations by Guatemala of the rights to humane treatment, to judicial protection, to fair trial, to equal treatment, to freedom of conscience and of religion, and to private property, in combination with the obligation to respect rights. These allegations arose from a massacre carried out by the Guatemalan army against a primarily Mayan community. During the massacre, approximately 20 girls ages 12 to 20 were mistreated, raped and murdered. Guatemala acknowledged its international responsibility for the massacre and withdrew any objections to the allegations. The Court found that Guatemala "breached the rights set forth in Articles 5(1) and 5(2) (Right to Humane Treatment); 8(1) (Right to Fair Trial); 11 (Right to Privacy); 12(2) and 12(3) (Freedom of Conscience and Religion); 13(2) paragraph a and 13(5) (Freedom of Thought and Expression), 16(1) (Freedom of Association), 21(1) and 21(2) (Right to Property), 24 (Right to Equal Protection) and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights; and that it did not fulfill the obligation to respect rights set forth in Article 1(1) of that Convention, as set forth in paragraphs 47 and 48 of the instant Judgment." 

La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos presentó este caso a la Corte, alegando violaciones por parte de Guatemala de los derechos humanos, con respecto a la protección judicial, a un juicio justo, a un trato igualitario, a la libertad de conciencia y de religión, y a la propiedad privada, en combinación con la obligación de respetar dichos derechos. Estas acusaciones surgieron a partir de una masacre llevada a cabo por el ejército guatemalteco contra una comunidad principalmente maya. Durante la masacre, aproximadamente 20 niñas de 12 a 20 años fueron maltratadas, violadas y asesinadas. Guatemala reconoció su responsabilidad internacional por la masacre y retiró cualquier objeción a las acusaciones. El Tribunal determinó que el país "violó los derechos establecidos en los artículos 5 (1) y 5 (2) (Derecho a un trato humano); 8 (1) (Derecho a un juicio justo); 11 (Derecho a la privacidad); 12 (2) ) y 12 (3) (Libertad de conciencia y religión); 13 (2) párrafos a y 13 (5) (Libertad de pensamiento y expresión), 16 (1) (Libertad de asociación), 21 (1) y 21 ( 2) (Derecho a la propiedad), 24 (Derecho a la igualdad de protección) y 25 (Derecho a la protección judicial) de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos, y que no cumplió con la obligación de respetar los derechos establecidos en el artículo 1 (1) de esa Convención, tal como se establece en los párrafos 47 y 48 de la presente Sentencia. "



Proposed Amendments to the Naturalization Provisions of the Constitution of Costa Rica Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1984)

Gender discrimination

Challenge to gender-based nationality law.

Desafío a la ley de nacionalidad que se basa en género sexual. 



Girls Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2005)

Gender discrimination

The IACHR submitted an application to the Court to determine whether the Dominican Republic had violated Articles 1(1), 2, 3, 8, 19, 20, 24 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Dilcia Oliven Yean and Violeta Bosico Cofi. The application was based on the fact that the two girls had been denied Dominican birth certificates despite having been born within Dominican territory, leaving the girls stateless and without nationality. This also caused one of them, Violeta, to not be admitted to school since you must present a birth certificate to attend school in the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic eventually granted the girls their birth certificates and then argued that by doing so, the girls' cause of action before the commission was null. The girls, however, argued that receiving their birth certificates did not remedy the fact that they had been stateless for four years. The Court found the Dominican Republic violated Articles 1(1), 3, 5, 18, 19, 20, and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights and ordered the Dominican Republic to issue a public apology to the girls and to pass legislation consistent with Article 2 of the American Convention which would make it simple to acquire citizenship upon late declaration of birth. 

 

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos presentó una solicitud a la Corte para determinar si la República Dominicana había violado los artículos 1 (1), 2, 3, 8, 19, 20, 24 y 25 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos con respecto a Dilcia Oliven Yean y Violeta Bosico Cofi. La solicitud se basó en el hecho de que a las dos niñas se les habían negado los certificados de nacimiento dominicanos a pesar de haber nacido en el territorio nacional, lo cuál las dejó sin patria y sin nacionalidad legal. Esto también causó que una de ellas, Violeta, no fuera admitida en la escuela, ya que es requerimiento para asistir una escuela del país el presentar un certificado de nacimiento. La República Dominicana finalmente le otorgó a las niñas dichos certificados y luego argumentó que como ya estaba hecho, la causa de acción de las niñas ante la comisión era nula. Las niñas, sin embargo, argumentaron que recibir sus certificados de nacimiento no remedió el hecho de que habían sido despatriadas durante cuatro años. La Corte determinó que la República Dominicana en efecto violó los artículos 1 (1), 3, 5, 18, 19, 20 y 24 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos y le ordenó a la República Dominicana emitir una disculpa pública a las niñas y aprobar leyes consistentes con el artículo 2 de la Convención Americana, lo cual facilitaría la adquisición de la ciudadanía en el momento de la declaración tardía de nacimiento.



“White Van" (Paniagua-Morales et al.) v. Guatemala Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1998)

Acid violence

The IACHR submitted this case to the Court to determine whether Guatemala had violated the American Convention on Human Rights by "acts of abduction, arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment, torture and murder committed by agents of the State, of Guatemala against eleven victims," some of them women. The Court held that Guatemala violated Articles 1(1), 4(1), 5(1), 5(2), 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture. The Court ordered Guatemala to investigate and punish those responsible for the violations, and to pay reparations to the victims and their next of kin.

La Comisión Internacional de Derechos Humanos presentó este caso a la Corte para determinar si Guatemala había violado la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos por "actos de secuestro, detención arbitraria, trato inhumano, tortura y asesinato cometidos por agentes del Estado de Guatemala contra once víctimas", algunos de ellas mujeres. La Corte sostuvo que Guatemala en efecto violó los artículos 1 (1), 4 (1), 5 (1), 5 (2), 8 (1) y 25 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos, así como los artículos 1, 6 y 8. de la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir y Sancionar la Tortura. La Corte le ordenó a Guatemala investigar y sancionar a los responsables de las violaciones, y pagar compensación a las víctimas y sus familiares.