Inter-American Rights Watch

IACHR Hears First Case on El Salvador’s Total Abortion Ban

Alexa Connaughton
Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has heard its first case regarding the total criminalization of abortion and is expected to deliver a formal written opinion before the end of the year. The case, Beatriz, et al. v. El Salvador, was recommended to the Court by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights alleging violations of Beatriz’s rights to life and health, to be free from inhumane treatment, to privacy, and to equity before the law. The Court’s decision on this case is expected to set a precedent on abortion laws in Latin America if the woman’s life is in danger or if the fetus will not survive outside the womb.


Protesters placing candles at a memorial for Beatriz. Photo Courtesy of NBC News.

In 2013, eleven weeks into her pregnancy Beatriz was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy. Beatriz suffered from lupus and other ailments and was diagnosed shortly after her first pregnancy. An ultrasound revealed that the fetus was anencephalic, a lethal condition in which part of the brain and skull don’t develop inside the womb. Carrying this type of pregnancy to term can lead to many complications including obstetrical hemorrhaging. The medical committee at El Salvador’s national maternity hospital recommended an abortion, however, abortion is illegal in all circumstances in El Salvador. Beatriz’s legal team requested the termination of her pregnancy to save her life, but the Supreme court denied the writ, ruling she could not have an abortion. Beatriz later went into labor early and was required to have an emergency C-section, the fetus died only five hours later.

In El Salvador women have been convicted of homicide for having an abortion, with sentences ranging up to 40 years in prison. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals can be convicted if they are found to have supported a woman in getting an abortion and may receive up to 12 years in prison.

In 2021 the Inter American Court of Human Rights found El Salvador responsible for the death of Manuela, a woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, charged with aggravated homicide after suffering a miscarriage. As part of the Court’s decision on that case they ruled that criminal sanctions should not be imposed automatically when pregnancy ends as a result of an obstetric emergency. However, El Salvador has made no change to their criminal abortion laws following the 2021 ruling. The hope with the pending decision in Beatriz, et al. v. El Salvador, is that a decision condemning the blanket abortion ban as a whole or in circumstances of high risk will push legislation towards decriminalization.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – El Salvador: Court Hears Case on Total Abortion Ban – 23 Mar. 2023

IACHR – Caso Beatriz y Otros vs. El Salvador – 21 Feb. 2023

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, OAS – IACHR Takes Case Involving El Salvador’s Absolute Ban on Abortion to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights – 11 Jan. 2022

Jurist – Inter-American Court of Human Rights hears El Salvador abortion access case – 23 Mar. 2023

NBC News – Activists urge human rights court to condemn El Salvador’s abortion ban – 7 Mar. 2023

Reuters – Human rights court begins review of high-stakes El Salvador abortion case – 22 Mar. 2023

The Guardian – ‘Historic moment’ as El Salvador abortion case fuels hopes for expanded access across Latin America – 24 Mar. 2023

Child Labor Violations Skyrocket in the U.S. with the Forced Labor of Migrant Children

By: Kendall Hay

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Associate Member

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – New reports have recently surfaced bringing to light issues of forced labor among migrant children in the United States. The government has recently resolved the first of many cases brought against major companies that are at the heart of the exploitation. Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD. was prosecuted and fined $1.5 million in civil penalties in what is one of the largest cases in the history of labor violations. As violations have just begun to surface, it is expected that more litigation will ensue.

Child migrant worker. Photo courtesy of NBC news

Those being targeted are children who cross the border into the United States unaccompanied. Because U.S. law forbids unaccompanied minors to be turned away, many cross into the United States alone and are held in a holding facility until the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is able to locate an American sponsor. In the past, HHS has taken time to ensure that the vetting process is thorough by verifying that the sponsors are who they claim to be (typically relatives) and ensuring their agreement to provide for these children. However, due to the large number of unaccompanied children who have recently been crossing alone, detention facilities are at capacity, and the vetting process has become almost nonexistent, as the current administration has demanded that kids are moved through as quickly as possible.

This kind of quick processing has led to the exploitation of kids, as “sponsors” who have ill intentions for the kids are now able to traffic these kids and demand work in exchange for living expenses. These kids accrue a debt they are never able to repay and are forced to choose low-paying jobs and night shifts in local factories so that they are still able to attend school.

Although child labor laws in the United States allow 14-year-old children to work, there are many restrictions in place. Factory work, construction work, and other dangerous positions are restricted until the age of 16, and because school attendance is mandatory, the work chosen must not interfere with a child’s education.

However, recent reporting has found that children as young as 12 are working full-time jobs with extremely low pay and no experience. They are also often hired for the night shift because of the unpopularity of the hours, so they will still have the option to attend school. Because the work available to them is found in meatpacking plants, factories, food production plants, and construction sites, these children are constantly faced with dangerous and life-threatening conditions. As a result, serious injuries and many deaths of these minors have been reported. Machinery accidents, loss of limbs from assembly line work, and falls in construction jobs have all been documented.

Violations have been reported in all 50 states with major brands such as Target, Ben & Jerry’s, Walmart, Whole Foods, General Motors, Fruit of the Loom, Ford, and J Crew among the 850 companies all guilty of attributing to child labor violations.

While some companies are simply looking the other way when hiring these child workers and are failing to do due diligence when checking identification, others contract with hiring services and are not vigilant in overseeing who these services are actually hiring. Because the maximum penalty for violations is $15,000, there simply isn’t enough of a deterrent to prevent these practices from continuing.

The Biden Administration has vowed to crack down on these violations and the Department of Labor has begun investigations of over 600 violations. Lawmakers are also pushing for stricter laws in order to protect these minors that include larger penalties for violators. But with an unprecedented number of unaccompanied children crossing the border, a systemic change will be necessary.


For further information, please see:

NPR – How Child Labor Violations Have Quadrupled Since 2015 – 6 Mar. 2023

The New York Times – Lawmakers Clamor for Action on Child Migrant Labor as Outrage Grows – 3 Mar. 2023

CBS News – U.S. takes action to prevent migrant child labor amid rise in violations – 27 Feb. 2023

Reuters – U.S. to crack down on child labor amid massive uptick – 27 Feb. 2023

Economic Policy Institute – Child labor laws are under attack in states across the country – 14 Mar. 2023

IACHR Calls Honduras to Protect Human Rights Defenders After at Least Five Murders this Year

By: Marie LeRoy

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

HONDURAS — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) demands that Honduras investigate the murders of Human Rights Defenders “effectively and with due diligence” after yet another vicious murder this year.

Picture of activist in Guapinol, Honduras protesting open pit mining. Security forces look on from across the river. Picture curtesy of Ignatian Solidary Network.

At least five human rights activists, who focused on environmental rights, have been reported to have been murdered this year in Honduras. According to the IACHR, some of the activists have been targeted because of their involvement in the protests against the “operation of an open-pit oxide mine” in an aera in Guapinol, Honduras that had been designated as an “forest reserve”. Open pit mining can pollute rivers and contaminate water which directly effects the rural communities in Honduras relying on the river. The activists claim that the mining allowance was illegally granted because of the “forest reserve” status of the land and therefore should be stopped. The mining company and local authorities have responded to these protests by allegedly targeted around thirty-two leaders of these environmental groups and “falsely accusing them of crimes”.

Local police and prosecutor in Honduras have attempted to attribute these deaths to incidences of local violence unrelated to the Human Right Defenders’ protests. Some reports by the local police have stated that the victims’ deaths were a result of a “botched mugging” although the victims were found with their cellphones and money.

The lack of efforts by the police, prosecutors, and authorities to investigate and protect these Human Rights Defenders, and to even attempt to “cover up” the crimes, has not gone unnoticed. Human Rights Defenders in Honduras have had a longstanding history of being violently targeted in attempts to silence them in their opposition and their organizations. The way in which these Human Rights Defenders’ have been routinely targeted include acts of intimidation, including intimidating messages, harassment, and death threats, to outright acts of violence, including acts up to and including murder.

These acts on Human Rights Defenders can result in fewer and fewer individuals willing to advocate for these causes as well as similar important causes. The effects of the decline in advocacy seeps into every aspect of life, polluting and decaying entire communities’ quality of life until Human Rights in general are a thing of the past. The IACHR demands Honduras “take all measures necessary to protect the rights to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders” to ensure the continuation of advocacy in Honduras.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera – UN calls for probe into killing of two Honduran environmentalist- 12 Jan. 2023

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre – Honduras: IACHR condemns killing of at least 5 land defenders and calls on the State to investigate them diligently and effectively – 14 Feb. 2023

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre – Honduras: Local activists & UN call for investigation after murder of 2 human rights defenders—17 Jan. 2023

IACHR- Press Release IACHR Condemns Murders of Right Defenders in Honduras- 14 Feb. 2023

The Guardian – Honduran environmental defenders shot dead in broad daylight – 11 Jan. 2023 – Honduras: Violent attacks & murder of human rights defenders—9 Feb. 2023

Nicaragua Releases Hundreds of Political Prisoners, IACHR Condemns Treatment by Government and Deprivation of Citizenship

By: Sydney Krause

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

Managua, Nicaragua – On February 9, 2023, Nicaraguan authorities released hundreds of political prisoners to the United States, declaring them traitors and stripping them of their citizenship. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”) condemned the prisoners’ treatment during their detention and the “arbitrary deprivation of nationality,” calling for Nicaragua to repeal recent legislation permitting the revocation of citizenship.

Activists await arrival of political prisoners at Washington Dulles International Airport (Photo Courtesy of the Independent, Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The 222 prisoners were met in Washington D.C. by a small group of relatives and supporters. They were deported per an order issued by the First Chamber of the Managua Court of Appeals, citing national security concerns related to terrorism and economic destabilization. The U.S. Department of State said the transfer was made “unilaterally” by Nicaragua, but that the United States organized transport of the political prisoners who would be admitted to the United States for “humanitarian reasons” for up to two years.

Many of the releasees – including students, political opponents, journalists, and priests – were detained during President Daniel Ortega’s crackdown on political dissidents beginning in 2018. Mr. Ortega described the prisoner release as part of a drive to expel criminal provocateurs and traitors from the country. Shortly after their release, the National Assembly voted to strip them of their Nicaraguan citizenship.

The Special Reform Law amends Article 21 of the Political Constitution, the basis for determining Nicaraguan citizenship. The change states that “the acquisition, loss, and recovery of nationality will be regulated by law. [And] traitors to the homeland lose the quality of Nicaraguan nationality.” The change also builds on Law 1055, known as the “sovereignty law,” which establishes that citizens who “harm the supreme interests of the nation” are “traitors to the homeland.” Under the amended Article 21, those sentenced under Law 1055 will lose their citizenship.

International law strictly prohibits the deprivation of nationality and rendering a person stateless. “Stateless” persons face immense legal concerns such as the loss of social security benefits, restriction of free travel, including to visit family, and the possibility of detention and prosecution by local authorities.

Nicaragua’s unprecedented action has garnered criticism from states and agencies worldwide, including the United Nations refugee agency, the IACHR, and the U.S. State Department. The IACHR condemned Nicaragua’s actions in its February 9 press release, citing international law and noting that Nicaragua has been a party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons since 2013.

Since the mass release, the Nicaraguan government has revoked the citizenship of at least an additional ninety-four people.


For further information, please see:

Associated Press – Nicaragua’s vote to strip opponents of citizenship – 14 Feb. 2023

Constitution Net – In Nicaragua, constitutional amendment revoking citizenship for crimes against state expedited, pending approval in subsequent legislature – 10 Feb. 2023

Department of State – Press Statement: Release of Political Prisoners from Nicaragua – 9, Feb. 2023

Independent – Why has Nicaragua suddenly released more than 200 political prisoners? – 10 Feb. 2023

New York Times – Nicaragua Strips Citizenship from Hundreds Days After Prisoner Release – 17 Feb. 2023

New York Times – Nicaragua Frees Hundreds of Political Prisoners to the United States – 9 Feb. 2023

NPR – Nicaragua has freed 222 political prisoners and sent them to the U.S. – 9 Feb. 2023

OAS, IACHR – IACHR Welcomes Release of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua but Rejects Arbitrary Deprivation of Nationality – 13 Feb 2023

Prensa Latina – Law in Nicaragua withdraws nationality from traitors to the homeland – 9 Feb. 2023

Reuters – Defiant Ortega frees political prisoners in Nicaragua, expels them to U.S. – 9, Feb. 2023

Court Determines Ecuador Responsible for Violation of Right to Life of Two Individuals

By: Sallie Moppert
Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – A recent judgment handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, IACHER, determined that Ecuador was responsible for the violation of the right to life of two individuals who died following a traffic stop and subsequent police chase in 1997. In addition to the violation of the right to life, the Court also found several other violations, including the right to humane treatment, right to a fair trial, and right to judicial protection of their next of kin.

A member of the Ecuadorian Traffic Commission performs a traffic stop.
Photo courtesy of MSN News 360.

Walter Huaćon Baidal and Mercedes Salazar Cuevos were leaving a family reunion on the afternoon of March 31, 1997. While driving, the pair encountered a traffic checkpoint, where Baidal realized he had forgotten his driver’s license and vehicle documents. Baidal turned the car around, driving on the wrong side of the road, to drive to his house to obtain his missing documents. Members of the Traffic Commission, which had been conducting the traffic checkpoint, witnessed Baidal making an illegal turn and driving on the wrong side of the road, leading to two members of the Traffic Commission and four police officers giving chase.

The officers eventually caught up to Baidal and Cuevos and pulled the vehicle over. Baidal and Cuevos were removed from the vehicle and were fatally shot and killed by the officers. Administrative and judicial proceedings were brought against the officers involved in the incident. Five officers were dismissed and, while charges were brought against the sixth officer, he did not appear at the trial. As a result, the proceedings were suspended and the case was eventually declared beyond the statute of limitations on October 11, 2012.

The Court found that the lethal force used by the police force was unjustified and disproportionate, and amounted to nothing more than extrajudicial executions, thus violating the right to life of Baidal and Cuevos. In addition, the officers’ treatment of Baidal and Cuevos during the traffic stop violated their right to humane treatment. The IACHER also determined that Ecuador’s investigation and review of the facts of the case in the police criminal court as opposed to being held in a court with an impartial authority, violated their right to an effective judicial remedy. In addition, Ecuador did not carry out the investigative process with due diligence or within a reasonable period of time. Finally, the Court noted that the families of Baidal and Cuevos had not been able to obtain the truth of the situation and the determination of who was responsible for the incident in the ordinary criminal justice system.

Based on its findings, the IACHER ordered Ecuador to make full reparations for the human rights violations declared in the report, provide the necessary physical and mental health care measures for the family members of Baidal and Cueva, conduct a full and effective investigation of the human rights violations stated in the report, develop and introduce ongoing training programs for police agents, as well as the establishment of protocols on the use of force, introduce measures to ensure effective accountability in the criminal, disciplinary or administrative courts, and introduce measures to strengthen investigative capacity, with due diligence and in accordance with relevant international standards, on possible extrajudicial executions in the context of the use of lethal force by police officers, so that effective protocols are in place to carry out such investigations.

For further information, please see:

Inter-American Court of Human Rights – Ecuador is Responsible for the Extrajudicial Execution of Two Persons and for Failing to Adequately Investigate the Facts – Nov. 21, 2022

Organization of American States – IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court – July 14, 2021