The petitioner in this case, Mrs. V.P.C., alleged that her daughter, V.R.P., was raped by her father on two occasions when she was nine years old. The petitioner alleged numerous irregularities throughout the criminal process that resulted in its unreasonably long length and in impunity, including lack of due diligence in how the case was handled, lack of medical examination of the alleged perpetrator, and irregular jury composition and treatment. Furthermore, she alleged that the medical examinations of her daughter by the State did not comply with minimum international standards and re-victimized her, as a result of hostile and aggressive treatment; the presence of other people, including a judge and a prosecutor; and lack of information about the examination. The petitioner maintained that her daughter was not provided with comprehensive medical attention, including psychological care. Further, the petitioner also alleged that she and her daughter were discriminated against by State officials during the proceedings because it was a case regarding sexual violence.
The State denied the petitioner’s allegations. It argued that the criminal process complied with the legal requirements established by the Nicaraguan legal system. It maintained that after receiving the complaint for rape it carried out multiple procedures in order to clarify the facts. It noted that the decisions adopted by domestic courts adequately assessed the evidence submitted. It maintained that the medical examinations conducted on V.R.P. complied with domestic procedures, and that the best interest of the child was taken into account at all times.
The Commission’s analysis centered on whether the State’s investigation was carried out in accordance with the State’s obligations to guarantee the rights violated by the rape of a girl, as well as its obligation to provide effective resources and judicial protection in such situations, under the American Convention on Human Rights (American Convention) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).
The Commission recalled that, in cases of violence against women, the general obligations of States Parties, including Nicaragua, established in Articles 8 (right to fair trial) and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention are complemented and reinforced with the obligations pursuant to the Convention of Belém do Pará (Article 7.b), which requires States Parties to “apply due diligence to prevent, investigate and impose penalties for violence against women.” The obligation commences from the moment the State becomes aware of an alleged incident such as rape.
The Commission stated that States should have an appropriate legal framework of protection that is enforced effectively, and prevention policies and practices that allow effective measures to be taken in response to complaints against sexual violence. In cases of rape, insofar as possible, the investigation must try to avoid re-victimization or the re-experiencing of the profoundly traumatic experience each time the victim recalls or testifies about what happened.
In relation to violations against V.R.P., the Commission determined that the sexual assaults committed by a non-state actor, in this case the father, constituted violations to the rights to personal integrity, dignity, private life and autonomy, to equality and non-discrimination and to special protection as a girl. It found Nicaragua responsible for the failure to guarantee those rights, particularly, the non-compliance of its duty to investigate with due diligence, in a reasonable time and with a gender-sensitive approach as well as the special protection required because she was a girl child. The Commission also found that V.R.P was severely re-victimized with serious impacts on her psychological integrity, as well as her mother’s and siblings’ psychological integrity. The Commission concluded that the acquittal of V.R.P’s father was the result of a violation to the obligations of the State and thus, recommended that the investigation continue, amongst other remedial measures.
The Commission specifically recommended the State carry out with due diligence and in a reasonable time the corresponding investigations and criminal procedures, in order to identify, prosecute, and, if applicable, sanction the person responsible for sexually assaulting V.R.P. The Commission affirmed that the legal procedure was not conducted in accordance with the Nicaragua’s international obligations a under the American Convention and the Convention Belém do Pará. The Commission highlighted that this situation is exacerbated by the nature of the offence, as well as the situation of double vulnerability of V.R.P as a woman and a child. Taking this into consideration, the Commission considered that, in the present case, the guarantee of not being judged two times for the same crime (ne bis in ídem) cannot be used by the State in order not to comply with the recommendation to investigate.
The Commission also recommended reparations for both the material and moral aspects of the violations, and the provision of medical and psychological or psychiatric treatment to the victims of the present case who request it, immediately and for free. Additionally, the Commission recommended adopting relevant measures against the actions or omissions made by State employees that contributed to the denial of justice and impunity to the victims.
The Commission also recommended that Nicaragua develop investigation protocols so that sexual assault cases and other forms of sexual violence against women, including girls, are correctly investigated and judged, from a gender approach. In this regard, the Commission noted that Nicaragua must design and implement permanent training programs for public officers who are part of law enforcement, including the Judicial Authority, Public Ministry, and National Police, on international standards on investigation of sexual violations and other forms of sexual violence against women, including girls. In addition, the Commission noted that health personnel must be trained on international standards on the treatment of boys and girls who are victims of sexual assault. Finally, the Commission recommended adopting public policies and institutional programs to address violence against women and girls as forms of discrimination, as well as promoting the elimination of socio-cultural discriminatory patterns that prevent access to justice.
The Commission concluded that Nicaragua was responsible for violating Articles 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to fair trial), 11 (right to privacy), 19 (rights of the child), 24 (right to equal protection) and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights in connection with Articles 1.1 and 2 of the same instrument, to the detriment of V.R.P. Furthermore, the Commission has concluded that the State responsible for violating Articles 5, 8 and 25 of the American Convention in connection with Article 1.1, to the detriment of V.P.C. Additionally, the Commission found that the State violated Article 7 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, to the detriment of both V.R.P. and V.P.C.
Note: The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court on August 25, 2016, because it considered that Nicaragua did not comply with the recommendations stated in the Merits Report. The case is currently pending before the Court.