Inter-American Rights Watch

Peru Found Guilty of Torturing Transgender Woman in Custody

By: Elizabeth Wright

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

CASA GRANDE, Peru — On April 6, 2020, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights published a decision which found the country of Peru guilty of torture and rape of a transgender woman while she was in police custody.

Azul Rojas Marin. Photo Courtesy of BBC.

Azul Rojas Marin was arrested in February 2008, for what has now been determined to be an arbitrary and discriminatory purpose. While in police custody her legal team reports that, Azul was stripped naked, beaten, and brutally raped with a police baton by three officers.

Following the incident, Azul filed an initial criminal complaint against the officers involved, but it was dismissed by the state. After hearing about her case, several human rights organizations joined to help and brought her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Court ultimately found for Azul. The Court ordered Peruvian government to pay Azul damages and provide her with psychological treatment. Furthermore, the Court ordered Peru to track data regarding violence of those in the LGBT+ community, and to create protocol for investigating such violence.

Evidence shows that LGBT+ individuals experience much higher rates of violence than others. This is the first time the Inter-American Court has made a ruling on torture of any person identifying as LGBT+. Thus, many feel the verdict legal validation for transgender and LGBT+ individuals.

For further information, please see:

NY Daily News – Top Human Rights Court Finds Peru Responsible for Raping, Torturing Transgender Woman – 8 Apr. 2020

PinkNews – Peru is ‘responsible’ for Rape and Torture of Trans Woman While in Custody, Top Human Rights Court Rules – 7 Apr. 2020

BBC NEWS – Azul Rojas Marin: Peru Found Responsible for Torture of LGBT Person – 7 April 2020

Reuters – Top Americas Court Finds Peru Responsible for Torture of Trans Woman – 6 Apr. 2020

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Officially Condemns Cuba for Restrictions on Free Expression

By: Ben Kaufman

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

HAVANA, Republic of Cuba – In response to a renewed wave of imprisonment of critical journalists in Cuba, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression issued a condemnation of the Cuban government’s crackdown on journalists and other citizens. This condemnation comes after a series of requests for inspections and records concerning the arrests, detention, and state pressure to self-exile of journalists in the last year.

Despite anticipation for a more engaged press and civil society launched by the words of President Raul Castro in 2010 concerning reforms, journalists have felt increasing pressure by the state to cease dissenting and critical coverage or to leave the state entirely. A representative of the Cuban Prisoner Defenders and member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba told the Guardian that journalists were being increasingly pressured to choose the exile option as a result of prisons overfilled with political prisoners. “We have found a variety of cases. Cases where the activist cannot be broken and is put on a plane, cases where the activist has a weak point, through their child or mother, and they attack there hard, leading the activist to give in and he goes to Guyana to beg.”

The official condemnation specifically refers to the arrest of Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces – a Cuban lawyer and journalist who was arrested on April 22, 2019 for trying to report on the trial of Cuban pastors who were educating their children at home for Cubanet. Quiñones Haces was charged with resistance and disobedience and was sentenced by the Municipal Court of Guantánamo to one year in prison. He has been in prison since September 11, 2019. The condemnation includes statements by his family that his condition has deteriorated due to poor hygienic conditions. Furthermore, the condemnation refers to the disciplinary process stemming from his reporting from prison on October 1, 2019.

Pursuant to Resolutions 34/18, 42/22, 34/5 of the Human Rights Council and Article 18 of the IACHR Statute, the condemnation states that the Office of the Special Rapporteur sent a letter to the Cuban government seeking information on Quiñones Haces’s punishment, concerns regarding the lack of due process by the Cuban government, and the “motivation of the judgment against said independent journalist.” In its response to that letter, the Cuban government denied the allegations and reiterates that the motivation behind his punishment was “‘the disobedience, disrespect, and resistance of police authorities on April 22, 2019,’ when he intended to cover a trial.”

The condemnation further references artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara who was arrested on March 1 for his attendance at a protest in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television to protest a film broadcasted on Cuban television which censored a gay kiss. Otero’s 21 prior arrests for activities associated with freedom of expression and association were of chief concern to the Office of the Special Rapporteur. In urging the Cuban government to end its harassment of members of civil society, the condemnation also refers to the situations of journalists Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina and Luz Escobar who have been detained and are barred from leaving the country.

Directly accusing Cuban authorities of being “the main source of threats and attacks against the press in the country,” the condemnation refers Cuba to its obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect journalistic work, artistic work, and the defense of human rights.

For further information, please see:

OAS – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemns increased criminalization and harassment of journalists, activists, and artists who exercise freedom of expression in Cuba – 17 Mar. 2020

The Guardian – Cuba is driving dissidents off island with threats of violence and jail, report finds – 19 Jun. 2019

Radio Television Marti – Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces humillado en prisión – 26 Dec. 2019

CPJ – Connecting Cuba: More space for criticism but restrictions slow press freedom progress – 28 Sep. 2016

Coronavirus Protections Threaten Human Rights in Panama

By: Elizabeth Wright

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Like other countries around the world, Panama has implemented measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Over the past few weeks the country has passed several different measures that require citizens to remain in their homes, impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those entering the country, and limit purchasing goods. Additionally, on March 13, President Laurentino Cortizo announced that the country was under a state of emergency.

While declaring a state of emergency might seem standard given the current situation, concerns have been raised regarding the freedom of Panamanian citizens. Professor of Law Antonio Bernal has expressed concern with the lack of restriction and direction in Panama’s constitution regarding the scope of a state of emergency. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has expressed similar concerns. The Court has stated that the constitutional provisions used to justify the state of emergency have the potential to violate fundamental human rights.

Countries within the Court’s jurisdiction voluntarily agree to its terms, so if the Panamanian government were to decide to issue laws which violate the basic human rights of Panama’s citizens, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights would likely intervene. The Court would first advise the government of appropriate changes and then, if the Court deemed that the country failed to make the appropriate changes, the Court would initiate a further measures against the country.

Bernal explains that while the current state of emergency seems protective, the government may begin to create laws without any oversight. For example, like in the United States, the Panamanian government decided to restrict all prison visitations. Bernal claims that this practice may be a human rights violation.

However, Juan Carlos Araus, President of Panama’s Bar argues that the state of emergency is the most appropriate way for the government to act in this situation because it expedites the law-making process. Araus concedes that the state of emergency does temporarily “suspend constitutional guarantees,” but that it is currently necessary due to the virus’ fast spread.

The upcoming weeks will be difficult for Panama and other countries around the world as they struggle to contain the spread of coronavirus. Each of these countries should be mindful of the fundamental rights of its people while making policies which are intended to protect their citizens’ health.

For further information, please see:

Reuters – Panama Imposes Full-Day Curfew, Guatemala Extends State of Emergency – 24 Mar. 2020

The Tico Times – Panama Restricts the Entry of Foreigners to the Country – 16 Mar. 2020

Westlaw – Corona Virus and State of Emergency – 14 Mar. 2020

Lexology – The Government of Panama Decrees State of National Emergency Due to the Coronavirus – 6 Mar. 2020

Chilean Protestors Human Rights are Diminished Amid Governmental Use of Excessive Force

By: Ann Ciancia

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

SANTIAGO, Chile – On October 18, thousands of Chilean people commenced protesting the government’s announcement of increasing public transportation costs. One day later, a state of emergency was declared as violence escalated within the country of Chile. The U.N. has reported over 20 deaths and 2,300 injuries of protestors since their fight for fair costs and equality began a month ago. The escalation of violence continues to grow daily in Chile.

Protestors in the Streets of Chile. Photo Courtesy of Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images.

Chile’s President, Sebastián Piñera, declared a state of emergency with night-time curfews, positioning tanks, and troops to face what he considers a “war with a violent enemy.” Many believe the excessive use of law enforcement was not necessary and has put the lives of many at a risk of safety. President Piñera has engaged in violating human rights through military demonstrations of arson, riots, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Many individuals have been blinded by these attacks.

Many victims have fallen short against the excessive force used by police. Children are being treated poorly, beaten, and detained. Amnesty International has reported over 7,000 people being detained since the beginning of the protests. Many women have reported being victims of sexual violence and being raped while in detainment. Active protestors of the country are being tortured for speaking out.

The Chilean people are being beaten for expressing their thoughts about change for their country through protests. A nationwide movement of peaceful demonstrations has led to violent riots. This has caused havoc throughout the country and has led to over a billion dollars’ worth of damage to the infrastructure of the nation. The violence against protestors in Chile has caused mass destruction in this country.

“Violence can never be the answer to people’s social and political demands.”

One particular protestor, Alex Nunez, was chased by three police officers and was severely beaten. The injuries he sustained that night, where only 5% of his brain was working, resulted in his death.

Prosecutors in Chile are investigating over 1,000 cases of abuse alleged by protestors. The abuse victims have faced range from sexual violence, to assault and torture. All of these injuries were sustained by victims from police and military members. The National Human Development Initiative collected over 50 cases in connection with homicide and sexual violence involving the Chilean security agents. A Chilean prosecutor was selected to investigate the crimes against human rights violations within the districts of Santiago.

Amnesty International is continuing to investigate possible violations of human rights law and crimes against protestors of Chile. Due to the amount of deaths and injuries, it is evident that Chilean authorities have used excessive force against these protestors. The world continues to call out President Piñera to take action to stop harmful force used against victims by police and military members and to allow protestors to use their platform for a movement to fight against inequality.

For further information, please see:

Reuters – Human rights abuse accusations proliferate in Chile unrest – 15 Nov. 2019

Amnesty International – Chile: Amnesty International denounces human rights violations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – 11 Nov. 2019

UN News – Violence can ‘never be the answer’: UN rights experts condemn excessive force during Chile protests – 8 Nov. 2019

The Guardian – Chile protests: UN to investigate claims of human rights abuses after 18 deaths – 24 Oct. 2019

 

 

Velásquez Paiz et al v. Guatemala: Gender Stereotypes in Guatemala

By: Justin Furry

Special Feature Reporter

Gender stereotypes and discrimination is an issue that has been in societies across the world. Recently, gender discrimination has been a big problem in Guatemala. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of femicide, or gender motivated killings of women, in the world. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was able to explore the relationship between this discrimination and violence towards women in Guatemala in the 2015 case Velásquez Paiz et al. v. Guatemala.

On August 12, 2005, Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz, a 19-year-old student, went to a party. Throughout the evening, Claudina was regularly in contact with her parents. At around 11:45 pm, Claudina contacted her parents for the last time. Two hours later, Claudina’s parents were informed that their daughter may be in danger. They called the police, who told them that they would have to wait at least 24 hours to report Claudina’s disappearance. Claudina’s parents and friends searched for her throughout the night. The police did not formally take notice of Claudina’s disappearance until 8:30 am the next morning.

Shortly after, an anonymous tip provided information that helped police and firemen find a woman’s body. The body was later identified as Claudina by her parents. Claudina was found with a bullet wound on her forehead, as well as signs of sexual violence. There is no evidence that the Public Ministry of Guatemala or the police had undertaken any action following information of Claudina’s disappearance, except for the report made at 8:30 am on August 13, 2005. No criminal investigation was initiated until after Claudina’s body was found.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that Guatemala was responsible for violating Claudina and her family’s human rights. The judgment is important because it casts further light on what specific steps are necessary for a state to satisfy its due diligence obligations within the particular context of violence against women. The Court acknowledged that Guatemala had taken some measures to prevent the generalized violence of woman in society, but the measures were far from sufficient. The Court said that whenever a report is made to the police about a missing woman, a duty of strict due diligence arises from the very first hours of the disappearance. Thus, the Court ruled that Guatemala had violated Articles 4.1, 5.1, 1.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights (“ACHR”) and Articles 1.1 and 7 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (“IACVAW”).

The Court also found that the lack of a fundamental due diligence on the part of Guatemalan officials throughout the investigation process had deprived Claudina’s family access to justice in violation of Articles 8.1 and 25 of the ACHR. The Court criticized the investigation and thought the process was directed at the culture of gender bias and discrimination prevalent within both the police and prosecuting authorities. One discriminatory practice the Court considered was a report filed by the prosecutor in which the motive of the murder was described as “passionate possibly under the influence of alcohol”. The Court relied on the statements of Professor Christine Chinkin, Director of the Centre for Women, Peace and Security, at the LSE. Professor Chinkin cautioned against the concept of a “crime of passion” which is founded on gender stereotyping that justifies violence against women. To describe the murderer as “passionate” justifies the violent act and at the same time blame the victim. The Court noted that the prosecutor’s attitude was not exclusive to the authorities leading the investigation but, rather, reflected a general tendency among officials to victim blame by pointing out factors such as the victim’s lifestyle or clothing.

The judgment represents one example of the way in which the due diligence standard has the potential to address the causes of gender discrimination and violence against women.

For further information please see:

IACHR Project – Velásquez Paiz et al. v. Guatemala, Case Summary – 2015

Oxford Human Rights Hub – Velásquez Paiz et al v Guatemala: Gender Stereotypes and Lack of Justice – Part I – 9 August 2016

Centre For Women, Peace & Security – Velásquez Paiz et al v. Guatemala