Women and Justice: Topics: Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general, LGBTIQ

Domestic Case Law

Public Prosecutor v. Various Parties Court of Appeal of Antwerp (2016)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general, LGBTIQ

An 18-year old woman died from injuries sustained during acts of exorcism (involving use of boiling water, acid, and beating) carried out at the request of her parents by a healer, a few months after she told her mother that she had homosexual feelings. At first instance, the acts were qualified as torture, and the fact that the victim was in a particularly vulnerable situation (mentally and physically) was considered an aggravating factor. Both the healer and the parents were sentenced by the lower court to prison terms (based on Article 417bis and 417ter of the Penal Code (torture)), but the court held that any possible discriminatory motive based on sexual orientation (which it considered unproven anyway) could not affect the criminal qualification, because the Penal Code does not provide for discrimination as an aggravating factor for torture.  Contrary to the lower court, which qualified the acts as torture, the Court of Appeal did not qualify the acts as torture (as the intention of the defendants was not to punish the victim), but as blows and injuries intentionally inflicted without the purpose of manslaughter but leading to death under Article 401 of the Penal Code. In addition, the Court found that the aggravating factors included the failure to protect a vulnerable person (Article 405bis) and the fact that acts were committed by the parents of the victim had been the motive for the exorcism.  The healer and both parents were sentenced to jail.

Mbatudde v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2010)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The victim died from concentrated sulfuric acid burns covering over 60% of his body.  On the night of his death, the deceased’s female partner, the appellant, and baby spent the night with him.  On the night of the attack, his landlords heard screaming coming from the apartment.  When they arrived, they saw the victim, who said he did not know who attacked him, and the Appellant, who did not appear to have any burns.  The appellant argued that she did not commit the attack and that they both had been attacked by a third party, possibly a former partner of the appellant.  On appeal, she argued that the trial court had improperly convicted her solely based on circumstantial evidence and that the death sentence should be mitigated.  The Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and upheld the conviction and sentence because of the particularly heinous nature of acid attacks.

Syson Muganga v. Uganda Court of Appeal at Kampala (2008)

Acid violence, Gender-based violence in general

The trial court found the appellant guilty of attempted murder for splashing acid on the female complainant.  The appellant allegedly knocked on the victim’s door on July 28, 2001, and splashed “a corrosive substance.”  The trial court relied on testimony from a security guard and the victim, who knew her attacker from school.  On appeal, the appellant argued that the trial judge erred in confirming the life imprisonment sentence.  The Court, after reviewing the testimony identifying the appellant, her motive, and the “vulnerable parts of the victim’s body” that were burned, found that the life sentence was reasonable for the “outrageously despicable and sadistic act.”

The Case of Naila Farhat Supreme Court of Pakistan (2009)

Acid violence

The acid violence case of Mst. Naila Farhat was brought in November 2008. In 2003, the perpetrator sprayed acid on the (then) 13 year old victim’s face in retaliation for her refusal of a marriage proposal. Ultimately, he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and ordered to pay 1.2 million rupees in damages. However on appeal to the High Court, the Judge stated that if he paid the fine he would not be imprisoned. In April 2009, the victim appealed to the Supreme Court and was the first case on an acid attack to reach the Supreme Court. The case was heard by the Chief Justice at his own initiative on the 20 November 2009, not only highlighting the concept of acid violence (and giving the perpetrator a higher sentence than the first lower court as well as imposing a fine), but there were also important recommendations given to the government for (a) providing free medical treatment and legal aid to acid/burn victims to facilitate their recovery; and (b) the development of relevant legislation to specifically deal with acid violence in Pakistan. The case lead to the creation of the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill.

Sekandi Hassan v. Uganda Supreme Court of Uganda (2007)

Acid violence, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The deceased, a 16-year-old girl, lived with her mother and brother. For approximately a year, the deceased would sneak out and have sexual intercourse with appellant, a married man who lived approximately 200 meters away from the deceased. A week before the incident, the deceased told her mother that appellant had impregnated her. This greatly displeased her mother, and she reported this to LCs officials. On the night of the incident, the deceased’s mother noticed appellant at her residence before appellant and the deceased left for the night. The next morning, the deceased was found lying by the side of the road about one mile from her home. She was in critical condition and had severe acid burns. Unable to speak, she wrote her information on a piece of paper, including her name and the name of the person who brought her to her location (appellant). She died later that day, and a medical examiner found the cause of death to be severe burns and pulmonary edema. Appellant was later arrested and convicted. He appealed the conviction, arguing that the conviction rested on weak circumstantial evidence and that his alibi deserved re-evaluation. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled against appellant. They found that the case against appellant relied on the credibility of the deceased’s mother and brother, who, due to proximity and prior acquaintance, knew appellant very well. The court also found that the fact that the deceased’s mother was pursuing actions against appellant gave him a motive for the murder, so as to avoid a possible defilement charge. In sum, the court held that there was ample evidence to convict appellant over his alibi and hence dismissed the appeal.


Avon Global Center 2013 Women and Justice Conference Report (2014)

Acid violence, Gender discrimination, Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices, Gender violence in conflict, Forced and early marriage, Gender-based violence in general

In December 2013, the Avon Global Center hosted its annual conference in New York, NY on "State Responsibility to End Violence Against Women: The Due Diligence Principle and the Role of Judges."

Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and India (2011)

Acid violence

A Report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, the Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City Bar Association, the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and the Virtue Foundation, Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and India.

International Case Law

“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.