In October of 2001, a Nicaraguan mother took her young daughter that was 10-years-old, to a medical exam where the doctor discovered the girl had been sexually abused. The girl later informed her mother that her father sexually abused her. Her mother reported the crime to the police and the father was taken to criminal court. A jury, upon suspicion of bribery, found the father not guilty of the crime of rape. The criminal court later found the verdict invalid. There were a series of appeals until in 2005 the District Court for the Judgment of Jinotega issued a final ruling finding that the man was innocent.
The case was brought before the Inter-American Commission arguing that Nicaragua’s investigation of the crime was done without a gender-sensitive approach and without appropriate protections for the child in violation of her right to physical, psychological, and sexual integrity. The Commission referred the case to the Inter-American Court after Nicaragua failed to comply with the Commission’s recommendations.
Having reviewed the case, the Inter-American Court affirmed that the State failed to afford adequate protection to the girl in their investigation. For example, the Court affirmed that authorities should ensure professionals with extensive experience in cases of sexual violence against children complete the exams and the State should avoid subjecting the victim to multiple medical exams in order to not cause further trauma. The Court also affirmed that rape is a manifestation of discrimination against women and said the state must adopt measures to guarantee effective and equal access to justice.
The Court ordered Nicaragua to investigate the public institutions responsible for the revictimization of the girl as well as compensate her and her mother for medical expenses, including psychological treatment, legal fees and other costs. The Court also ordered several public reparations including requiring Nicaragua to adopt protocols for the care of girls, boys and adolescents who are victims of sexual violence during criminal proceedings. Nicaragua must also provide free legal assistance to children and adolescents who are victims of crime.
This decision offers a critical step in improving the standards of investigations involving sexual violence against women and girls and ending impunity.
The judicial decision is available only in Spanish.
Judges who issued the decision
Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot
Humberto Antonio Sierra Porto
Elizabeth Odio Benito
Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni
L. Patricio Pazmiño Freire