The Inter-American Court sanctions Bolivia for failing to investigate or punish a girl’s rape by her cousin

The Inter-American Court sanctions Bolivia for failing to investigate or punish a girl’s rape by her cousin

Brisa De Angulo Losada, center, at a protest last March.Brisa De Angulo Losada, center, at a protest last March

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court HR) sanctioned the state of Bolivia for failing to adequately investigate and punish a rape and failing to protect the victim, who was a girl at the time of the events. He also accuses him of re-victimization by police, health and judicial services who have been investigating the case. Brisa de Angulo Losada admitted in 2002 at the age of 16 that she was raped by her cousin. According to the court’s ruling, which has just been announced, Bolivia has failed to fulfill its obligation to “guarantee the right of access to justice without discrimination on the basis of sex or the condition of the victim as a girl”. The feminist groups that have supported the victim over the years have called the verdict “historic”.

The court unanimously found Bolivia responsible for “violating De Angulo’s rights to personal integrity, judicial guarantees, private and family life, children’s rights and judicial protection.” The judgment states: “It is evident that Brisa has suffered deep suffering and anguish to the detriment of her mental and moral integrity as a result of the serious violations committed by the state.” Investigations and criminal proceedings. This treatment, which is considered “cruel and degrading”, caused De Angulo “additional suffering to the sexual and psychological violence he was subjected to”.

At the express request of the plaintiff, no economic compensation was found and not even the assumption of the legal costs. “What I seek is to make this injustice visible, not to punish the Bolivian government or demand financial redress. I want to contribute to structural changes in Bolivia and Latin America,” explains De Angulo, who is now 37 years old. For this reason, one of the main sanctions imposed by the Inter-American Court on the Bolivian state was to force it to publish the judgment in various media and to perform “a public act of recognition of its international responsibility” in which it must fulfill its “commitment to development of a comprehensive, holistic and transformative national strategy” to prevent and respond to sexual violence against girls and young people, particularly incest.

Although in the past other American states such as Nicaragua and Ecuador have been held accountable in similar cases by the Inter-American Court of Justice, the ruling against Bolivia is important because it obliges the country to adapt its regulations to the international consensus on incest so that it can do so Fall is no longer just an “aggravation” of other illegal conduct, but should become a crime in its own right. The ruling is also special because it requires the country to abolish the crime of “rapture,” which carries lower penalties than rape for an allegedly consensual relationship between an adult and a minor. “The alleged rape must be a rape,” said Bárbara Jiménez, researcher at Equality Now.

These resolutions have the potential to be expanded to other Latin American countries that recognize the Inter-American Court. Bolivian feminist Mónica Bayá stressed “the importance of this day for all survivors of sexual violence in the region”. In addition, the court asked the Bolivian authorities to stop the country’s legislation from basing its definition of rape on the use of physical force and base it on the lack of consent, as defined by international standards.

It took a lot of courage for Brisa De Angulo to appear before the authorities and report that she had been raped by her cousin. Instead of welcoming and protecting her, police, health and judicial officials at the time doubted her, forced her to repeat medical tests, ignored her testimony and initially acquitted her cousin, forcing her to appeal up to three times. In the end, the accused took advantage of the situation to flee the country. “The Bolivian judicial system has denied me a due process,” the woman sums up.

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Now Bolivia must request and obtain the extradition and trial of the alleged rapist, who lives in Colombia. De Angulo is also outside of her country, “hidden,” she says, “from the pressure and threats I’ve received for seeking justice for 20 years.”

The Court has found that Bolivia establishes a protocol for dealing with complaints of sexual assaults against children by officials at all levels and departments of the State related to these cases. They must be trained in this protocol. It must prevent re-victimisation, for example the examination of the complainant woman’s body must be limited to a single medical analysis, and ensure the participation of experts in psychology and doctors specializing in traumatic situations throughout the examination.

De Angulo accepted the verdict surrounded by representatives of the feminist organizations who had supported her in the process, and celebrated that “things are starting to change so that no girl has to go through the same thing again.”

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