On 22 August, in what civil society organisations in Peru view as a landmark move, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has, for the first time, referred a case to the Inter-American Court against the Peruvian state for arbitrary detention and gender-based violence. The case in point refers to the detention of Azul Rojas Marin, a transgender Peruvian living as a gay man.

Azul Rojas was detained in February 2008 supposedly for the purpose of identification. However, the evidence given to the Commission indicated that the detention was purely based on “subjective appreciations” by the police and the Commission concluded that “there are sufficient elements to consider that given the nature and form in which the violence [against Azul Rojas] took place, there was a special cruelty in identifying or perceiving Azul Rojas, back then, as a gay man”. It considered the violence against the victim was caused by prejudice, and that it included the use of torture.

The Commission stated that the Peruvian government had not complied with its obligations for due diligence and that throughout the course of the investigation the victim had been subjected to discrimination, including credibility challenges. It also maintained that the state had failed to provide adequate protection and attention to the victim who denounced sexual violence.

The case had been submitted to the Commission by the Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (Promsex), the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos and REDRESS, a British-based NGO that campaigns against torture. Following the news that the Commission had submitted the case to the Court, the petitioners issued a statement saying that “the fact that the case is now under the Court’s jurisdiction represents hope for justice and reparation to Azul and Azul’s mother, as well as an opportunity for the Peruvian state to eliminate its institutional practices of systemic violence against LGBTI people”.

From the Commission’s point of view, the case provides an opportunity for the Court to deepen its jurisprudence over cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence committed by state agents in cases where the violence is caused by prejudice.