Sexual Violence: the Inter-American Court rules against Peru

08 June 2015

Among the most prevalent crimes committed by agents of the Peruvian state during the years of armed conflict were those of a sexual nature. While the 2003 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report concluded that, overall, Shining Path had been responsible for the greatest amount of killings, it reported that state agents were responsible for most instances of rape and sexual violence. It is also the case that these cases have not so far been investigated in much detail and that sexual and gender violence is still particularly prevalent in Peru (See for instance Jelke Boesten’s award-winning book, Sexual Violence during War and Peace: Gender, Power, and Post-Conflict Justice in Peru).

In late May 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) finally ruled that in the case of Espinoza González vs Peru, the Peruvian state was guilty of having violated the victim’s right to liberty, integrity, protection to honour and dignity, judicial guarantees, judicial process and non-discrimination, during her imprisonment in 1993. Crucially, the Court also ruled that there was a generalised use of sexual violence and rape for which women were the main victims. According to the Court these practises were only possible because the special emergency legislation in force in Peru at the time. Gladys Espinoza González was kidnapped and raped by state agents in 1993; she has been seeking justice ever since.

The IACHR has also resolved that the Peruvian state has the responsibility of opening and conducting investigations in order to find those responsible. The state must also provide immediate free medical and psychological support to all the victims for those that ask for it. Moreover, it must develop protocols for further investigations into these areas of crime, as well as to provide education and preparation for the police to prevent cases similar to this from occurring again. Finally and crucially, the state must commit to the investigation of past crimes of a sexual nature and to provide medical and psychological support to all victims. This verdict therefore represents an important precedent for the future.

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  • PSG Aims

    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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    Over the past century Peru has suffered a series of autocratic governments and a civil war in which nearly 70,000 people died. Many of the country's ongoing political and social problems are a legacy of its somewhat turbulent past. 

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    Human rights violations were widespread during the twenty years after the initiation of armed conflict in 1980. Efforts to convict perpetrators since the war's end have made only limited progress. Today, concerns remain over the treatment of those engaged in social protest, particularly against strategically important investment projects.

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