South America

Former President of Peru on Trial for Forced Sterilization Program in the 1990s

By: Shane Kelly

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

LIMA, Peru – Earlier this month, hearings resumed against former president Alberto Fujimori for the hundreds of thousands of women forcibly sterilized under his tenure in the 1990s.

Former President Alberto Fujimori at his hearing. Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press.

The judicial process began last Monday against Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru. The trial focused on his participation in the Peruvian government’s role in the sterilization of over 270,000 indigenous women without consent in the 1990s. Those women brought this case against Fujimori, not only for the blatant offenses against female autonomy but also for the long-lasting effects from infections.

The prosecutor in the case brings charges specifically on behalf of the families of five dead women, and 1,301 others who allege being sterilized against their will. Currently, the 82-year-old Fujimori is serving a 25-year prison sentence for various murder charges of his own citizens by his military.

Peruvian women—victimized by Fujimori with his sterilization policies in the 1990s—are now demanding justice. They allege these sterilizations were part of Fujimori’s “family planning” policy—a euphemism for what he considered a solution to overpopulation he referred to as the “Indian problem.”

In one particular situation, Mrs. Magna Morales was denied the right to sue the government because of her agreement to the procedure, having been incentivized with gifts of food and clothing. In this instance, Mrs. Morales died of complications from the surgery.

Fujimori’s defense is that, because when he was extradited from Chile in 2007 sterilization charges were not included, he should not be judged on those crimes now. He later boasted his program as reducing the birth rate of Peru in comparison to China’s one-child policy.

The case was reopened in 2011 when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pressured Peru to investigate. In 2014, more than 2,000 cases were closed for insufficient evidence. The indigenous women persisted, pushing for the current trial and maintaining an online database called “Quipu” to track those subjected to this forced sterilization policy.

Hearings resumed this month, giving hope to thousands of women that they will receive some semblance of justice.

For further information, please see:

ABCNews – In Peru, Sterilization Case Against Fujimori Goes to Court – 1 Mar. 2021

New York Times – Using Gifts as Bait, Peru Sterilizes Poor Women – 15 Feb. 1998

Yahoo! – Forcibly Sterilized During Fujimori Dictatorship, Thousands of Peruvian Women Demand Justice – 3 Mar. 2021


Brazil’s Indigenous Communities Need Immediate Access to COVID-19 Vaccinations


The Journal of Global Rights & Organizations and Impunity Watch News dedicates this article to Zaiden Geraige Neto, Ph.D., who passed away from COVID-19. Zaiden was pursuing his LL.M. at the College of Law and had joined the Impunity Watch News team in 2021. Zaiden was a highly regarded class action lawyer and law professor in Brazil. He also leaves his legacy in numerous articles and books about law theory and practice. We extend our deepest sympathy to Zaiden’s wife, family, friends, and loved ones.

 Rest In Peace, Zaiden


BRASILIA, Brazil – As COVID-19 deaths continue to rise to their highest levels yet, and a dangerous new variant stalks Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to “stop whining.” Currently, Brazil ranks third amongst all countries in confirmed COVID-19 cases. President Jair Bolsonaro’s “lack of a cohesive and rigorous” COVID-19 policy and other “geographic and governmental challenges” threaten all Brazilians, but particularly the vulnerable communities like the Indigenous populations.

Nurse from the Special Indigenous Health District of Mato Grosso do Sul treats patient in the Lagoinha Village. Photo Courtesy of ReliefWeb.

According to Survival International, Brazil is made of nearly 305 Indigenous tribes which are composed of 900,000 people. Amongst these Indigenous communities, there have been 50,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 900 deaths. “Those who have died include people working in health care, traditional healing, politics and education, as well as chiefs and leaders of their own tribes.”

Health experts warn that Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to “factors ranging from lack of consistent healthcare to their culture of shared housing and food.” Additionally, due to the isolated nature of their communities, Indigenous people have not developed the same immunity to pathogens like the rest of the Brazilian population. While Brazil’s health ministry claimed that Indigenous communities would be some of the first to be inoculated, many Indigenous leaders of territories not recognized by the Brazilian government have stated that their community members have not been vaccinated.  According to the University of São Palo, it will take over four years for Brazil to immunize its entire population if Brazil’s current rate of vaccination is maintained. Today, only 3.8 percent of Brazilians have been vaccinated. Meanwhile, the U.S. is administering over 2 million vaccinations a day.

Indigenous healthcare workers conducting examinations and educating relatives that work in the city on quarantine protocol. Photo Courtesy of Conselho Terena Archives.

Four years is far too long. Historically, Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted by pandemics, such as the measles and now COVID-19. The Brazilian government must act now to protect its most vulnerable, including those who reside on land outside the Amazon that is not legally recognized. With this, Brazil should support the proposed World Trade Organization (“WTO”) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights waiver (“TRIPS”).

In October 2020, India and South Africa proposed the waiver that would allow all countries “to collaborate on the COVID-19 response, including vaccine development and distribution, without being unduly hampered by the complexity of laws and restrictions governing intellectual property.” Since then, over one hundred countries globally have endorsed the proposal while President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration has remained in opposition.

During the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Brazil supported a similar proposal that allowed the global distribution of treatment.  Once again, Brazil should take the lead in “prioritizing public health over intellectual property rules” and pharmaceutical companies’ profits. Inequitable access to vaccinations is a clear human rights issue.

For further information, please see:

Reuters – Slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil leaves indigenous at risk – 4 Mar. 2021

BBC News – Covid: Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ as death spike – 5 Mar. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Brazil: Support Wider Vaccine Production at WTO – 9 Mar. 2021

Just Security – Fair Shots for All: At WTO US Must Prioritize Vaccine Access for Lower-Income Countries Over Drug Company Profits – 9 Mar. 2021

NBC News – Survival of Brazil’s Indigenous groups hinges on urgent Covid response, human rights groups warn – 12 Mar. 2021

Yahoo! News – ‘History is dying’: Brazils’ Indigenous urgently need Covid vaccines, protection, groups say – 12 Mar. 2021

Unaccompanied Migrant Children Continue to be Detained at the U.S. Southern Border

By: Ryan Ockenden

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

CARRIZO SPRINGS, United States of America – Within recent weeks, thousands of unaccompanied migrant children have arrived at the southern border of the United States. President Biden has agreed not to turn back unaccompanied minors in spite of Title 42, the emergency public health law invoked by former President Trump, which authorized turning away the majority of migrants due to COVID-19.

Trailers previously used to house oil workers have been turned into bunks for the unaccompanied migrant minors. Photo Courtesy of Eric Gay and Associated.

Although President Biden promised to take a more humane approach to unauthorized immigration, his administration has re-opened the controversial Carrizo Springs detention center, to house these unaccompanied minors. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, minors cannot be held by border agents at these detention centers for more than 72 hours. After 72 hours, the unaccompanied minors must then be transferred to shelters while the Office of Refugee Resettlement can locate their family members in the United States and arrange for their release to the families. The Biden administration is not following this law. Due to the lag in processing, children are being held for much longer in detention centers like that in Carrizo Springs. Once unaccompanied minors arrive at the shelters, many of them are not being released to their families, despite the families being located, because of the requirement that the minors quarantine for ten days and test negative twice for COVID-19.

In the past, the Inter-American Court and Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) has asserted that detentions at the U.S. southern border must be as brief as possible. Further, the IACHR has stressed that the best interests of a child are the primary consideration in any action taken in relation to the child. COVID-19 has posed a confounding problem for the American government: whether to prioritize public health; or, to get children out of shelters and into their families’ possession as soon as possible.

Many human rights advocates feel that the Biden administration is reverting to the perverse policies under former President Trump. The advocates believe the vulnerable children are being held in unsafe facilities that do not meet their best interest: being sent to safety with their family members in the United States.

In the face of a health crisis, the Biden administration will continue to face two issues: (1) ensuring children are not held for more than 72 hours in Border Patrol custody; and, (2) whether prioritizing public health and quarantine policies over reuniting unaccompanied minors with their families is appropriate. On the first issue, the Biden administration has said that they do not want to keep the facilities open long, but they have no current alternative since they did not inherit a system that manages COVID-19 and the influx of unaccompanied minor migrants. On the second issue, the Biden administration has shown no indication to change their policy, raising questions about whether they are seeking the best interests of the children.

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – Carrizo Springs detention facility cannot become status quo for children – 23 Feb. 2021

NPR – Biden Pledges That Border Shelter For Teens ‘Won’t Stay Open Very Long’ – 25 Feb. 2021

Pacific Standard – What laws protect detained children from mistreatment on the border? – 24 Jun. 2019

Politico – Biden promised a ‘fair and humane’ immigration overhaul. What he inherited is a mess – 26 Feb. 2021

The New York Times – Thousands of Migrant Children Detained in Resumption of Trump-Era Policies – 26 Feb. 2021

Illegal Pesticides: A Continual Growing Concern in Paraguay

By: Samuel Schimel

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

COLONIA YERUTI, Paraguay – Paraguay made history in a 2019 ruling that held Paraguay responsible for failing to safeguard its citizens from the severe environmental contamination caused by illegal chemicals used on large-scale agribusinesses. These illegal agrochemicals were found to violate the State’s international obligations to protect the rights to life and respect for private and family life and the home.

The seizure of 13,000 pounds of suspected illegal pesticides in January 2020. Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post.

The landmark case, Portillo Cáceres v. Paraguay, was held before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (Committee). This case was brought as a result of toxic chemical pollutants that caused the death of Rubén Portillo Cáceres and a myriad of serious health concerns for other community members. These symptoms included “nausea, dizziness, headaches, fever, stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and skin lesions.” However, the grave of effects of these chemical pollutants did not stop here. Additionally, these chemical pollutants have had devastating effects on the environment including the killing of fruit trees, crops, and farm animals.

In reaching the decision, the Committee showed its support by stating that a right to life also concerns the entitlement of individuals to enjoy a life with dignity. It does not include any acts or omissions that would cause an individual’s unnatural or premature death. Unfortunately, this case did not end the pervasive use of dangerous agrochemicals in Paraguay entirely.

In 2020, the running street value for banned pesticides in Paraguay is more than $2 million. The illegal pesticides and their strength are twice that of pesticides that are legal in Paraguay’s neighboring border country, Brazil. Much of the illegal pesticides prevalent in Brazil end up in Paraguay due to the shared massive, yet largely unmonitored, border. Pesticides are mostly produced in China and then smuggled across the Paraguay border. Roughly 287,000 tonnes of Atrazine and 63,000 tonnes of Syngnta were sold in Brazil in 2018.

Since the last two decades, illegal trafficking of pesticides has quickly heightened into one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises deserving of more recognition. The pesticide trade is operated akin to a narcotics trade and is often controlled by rival gangs and mafias. This has led to the introduction of counterfeit and contraband pesticides that are now in heavy circulation in both developed and underdeveloped countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these pesticides carry with them extreme environmental and social consequences. There is an estimate of 3 million people poisoned and 200,000 killed each year due to exposure to these harmful and largely unregulated substances. Their use, researchers find, can poison soil, contaminate water sources and ravage entire ecosystems. These large-scale harms, of course, are supported by illegal and unregulated trade.

While the Paraguayan border is still largely unregulated leading to an influx of agrochemicals, this issue would largely be off the radar of health organizations without the 2019 ruling of Cáceres v. Paraguay. While the issue is still rampant, it is important to note that an individual’s health and safety are still protected from these dangerous agrochemicals under law and health organizations, like the WHO, which continue to advocate for agrochemical trafficking to be better policed. 

For further information, please see:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Views adopted by the Committee under article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, concerning communication No. 2751/2016 – 20 Sept. 2019


Monga bay – For European chemical giants, Brazil is an open market for toxic pesticides banned at home – 10 Sept. 2020

The Washington Post – In agricultural giant Brazil, a growing hazard: The illegal trade in pesticides – 9 Feb. 2020

United Nations Human Rights – Paraguay responsible for human rights violations in context of massive agrochemical fumigations – 14 Aug. 2019

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