Angulo Losada v. Bolivia: Inter-American Court of Human Rights declares the State responsible for gender discrimination and revictimisation of a teenager during a judicial process.
Patricio Trincado Vera
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On the 19th of January, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights notified the judgement of the Angulo Losada v. Bolivia, issued on the 18th November of 2022. The Court adressed this case with a perspective of intersectionality between gender and childhood, a found the Bolivian State internationally responsible for the violation of the rights to personal integrity, judicial guarantees, private and family life, equality before the law, judicial protection, and children rights of Brisa De Angulo Losada.
Brisa De Angulo Losada lived with her family in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In 2001, when she was 16 years old, her cousin E.G.A. who was 10 years older than her, moved in with her family to finish his studies. Between October 2001 and May 2002, Ms. De Angulo was victim of several acts of sexual violence committed by E.G.A., including sexual abuse and rape. After Ms. De Angulo’s father found out what happened, he seeked help with the NGO Defensa de Niñas y Niños Internacional, and he filed a complaint against E.G.A. before the police. E.G.A was initially found guilty and sentenced to 7 years of prison. However, after an appeal, the superior tribunal absolved him by considering that the facts of the case were not proved, and that there was no evidence of E.G.A.’s conducts that could annulled Ms. De Angulo’s sexual freedom, Th Tribunal also stated that sexual intercourse between relatives are not a crime, and that in order for them to be considered rape, the use of violence is required, which according to it did not happened in this case. Ms- De Angulo’s family and the prosecutor appealed the judgement, which was annulled. The criminal procedure began from the start, and in 2008 E.G.A. flee the country, establishing himself in Colombia. In 2018 an extradition procedure was initiated, and he was captured. Nonetheless, in 2020 the Colombian authorities cancelled the capture order against E.G.A. on the basis that in accordance with Colombian law, the alleged crime was prescribed. After more than 20 years after the facts, there is still no judgement on the matter.
In this judgement, the Inter-American Court referred to four main issues. First, the Court concluded that Bolivia did not take the necessary measures to prevent Ms. De Angulo’s revictimisation. Ms. De Angulo was subjected to repeat her statement on the facts several times, as well as to two gynaecological exams. The first one was carried out using force and without attending to the signs of pain of the victim, being an act of institutional sexual violence. The Court also considered that the second exam was not necessary. Thus, the State did not carry out the criminal procedure with a gender and children’s rights perspective, and did not comply with the strict due diligence and special protection that a case of sexual violence against a minor requires.
Second, the Court found that Bolivia exceeded the reasonable time for the investigation and judgement in this case. The whole procedure has taken more than 20 years, with no judgement, and without an explanation of the authorities for this delay. Thus, Bolivia violated the right to due process and judicial guarantees.
Third, the Court considered that the criminal provisions that refer to sexual violence must be constructed around the concept of consent. That is, in order to consider a sexual act as rape, the tribunals must not demand proof of threats, use of force or physical violence. The proof of a lack of victim’s consent is enough. Bolivia’s criminal legislation does not consider the lack of consent as the main element of rape. In this specific case, the Court considered that because of the age gap between E.G.A and Ms. De Angulo, and also due to his symbolic role as “older brother”, E.G.A. was an authority figure, and thus this was a situation of imbalance of power.
Finally, the Court observed that the criminal investigations and procedures were carried out in a discriminatory manner. Some of the functionaris that intervened in the process used gender stereotypes to refer to personal attributes of the victim in order to dispute the existence of sexual violence. This and the lack of comprehensive care for the victim, prevented the rehabilitation of Ms. De Angulo. The Bolivian tribunals became a second aggressor due to the revictimisation of the victim. These acts of institutional violence were considered by the Court as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
As redress measures, the Court demand the Bolivian state, among other things, to keep the criminal investigation against E.G.A. open, and to change domestic laws to be in compliance with the American Convention on Human Rights and with the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women.
Sources and Further Reading:
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2023, January 19). Bolivia es responsable por discriminación por motivos de género y niñez y revictimización de una adolescente víctima de violencia sexual durante proceso judicial. Inter-American Court of Human Rights Press releases. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/comunicados/cp_04_2023.pdf
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2022, November 18). Caso Angulo Losada vs. Bolivia. Resumen oficial emitido por la Corte Interamericana. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/articulos/resumen_475_esp.pdf
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2022, November 18). Angulo Losada v.. Bolivia. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/articulos/resumen_475_esp.pdf