Press Release

IACHR Condemns the Kidnapping and Gang Rape of a 12-Year-Old Indigenous Girl in Colombia and the Lack of an Adequate Investigation into This Crime

June 29, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the recently reported kidnapping and gang rape of an indigenous girl from the Embera Chamí people in Pueblo Rico, Colombia. According to publicly available information, the victim was allegedly kidnapped and subjected to sexual violence by a group of Army personnel on June 22, 2020, one of a series of violent acts against members of this group that have been reported. The IACHR calls on the Colombian state to implement comprehensive strategies to comply with its obligation to investigate, prosecute, and sanction those responsible for them, and to offer comprehensive protection and reparation for the girl and her family.

According to the information the IACHR received, the girl was allegedly kidnapped on Sunday, June 22, and raped “by an unknown number of soldiers.” Authorities from the Embera Chamí people allegedly found her on Monday night near a school in the area and took her to hospital.

The IACHR was also informed that the Attorney General’s Office initially identified eight soldiers as being the "alleged perpetrators”; however, only seven were subsequently charged, six as perpetrators and one as an accomplice. Furthermore, it allegedly classified the events as child sexual violence and as abusive sexual intercourse, rather than violent sexual intercourse, the core distinction between which is the supposed consent of the victim. If this is confirmed, this interpretation could constitute an expression of prejudices and subjective social interpretations of victims’ behavior and their sexuality, which continue to be major obstacles to effective access to justice for victims of sexual violence.

On numerous occasions, the IACHR has noted that machismo, patriarchal values, the prevalence of sexist stereotypes, and historic forms of social discrimination because violence against women and girls to be tolerated in all its forms, including physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and other kinds of violence. This is particularly reflected in the processes of investigation and prosecution of acts of sexual violence, especially sexual violence against girls, which tend to be marked by gender stereotypes and revictimizing.

The IACHR also acknowledges the persistence of practices that jeopardize the country’s indigenous and campesino communities and those of African descent, which are part of the aftermath of the armed conflict that plagued the country for over 50 years. In particular, the IACHR notes with extreme concern the ongoing forced recruitment of children and the use of antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices, kidnapping, sexual violence, confinement, and forced displacement. In this regard, the IACHR once again noted how important it is to continue to make progress toward implementing all the chapters of the Peace Agreement in a sustained, comprehensive fashion that includes a gender perspective, especially in rural areas, while continuing to make victims’ rights and human rights for all the core priority.

Specifically, both the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) have acknowledged that the rate of a detainee by a state agent is a particularly serious, reprehensible act, given the victim’s vulnerability and the abuse of power on the part of the agent. Likewise, rape is an extremely traumatic experience that can have severe consequences and cause extreme physical and psychological damage that leaves the victim physically and emotionally humiliated, a situation that is hard for them to overcome with the passing of time.

In response, the IACHR urges the State of Colombia to comply with the duty of enhanced due diligence by adopting immediate, urgent measures to investigate, prosecute, sanction, and provide reparation for the victim. In the particular case of indigenous women and children, the state must consider all the different risk factors they may encounter as a result of their ethnic and racial origin, as established in articles 6 and 9 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women.

The IACHR once again asserted that all acts of violence against women and girls must be investigated promptly and exhaustively, and that victims and their families must be treated with dignity and respect during these processes, in accordance with inter-American standards on the issue. Similarly, the IACHR urges the State to guarantee access to justice for all women, ensuring conditions of equality and nondiscrimination from an intersectional perspective, and to grant comprehensive reparations with a gender perspective so as to eradicate the structural causes that accentuate discrimination and violence against women, particularly those who belong to vulnerable or at-risk groups, such as indigenous peoples 

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 153/20