Azul Rojas Marin

Peru must respond to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding the illegal detention and sexual torture committed by police against an LGBTI person

***Lea el comunicado en español aquí***

It will be the first time that the Court will consider a case of illegal detention and sexual torture against an LGTBI person

29 August 2018 For the first time, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has submitted to the Inter-American Court a case on violence against an LGBTI person. The case refers to the illegal and arbitrary detention of Azul Rojas Marín on February 25, 2008 in Casa Grande (Trujillo) by members of the National Police of Peru, allegedly in order to carry out an identity check, when she was walking home.

During her arbitrary detention, which lasted about six hours, police officers used physical violence against her and assaulted her verbally, using denigrating expressions referring to her sexual orientation (at that time, the victim identified as a gay man). In addition, she was the victim of serious acts of physical and psychological violence, including various forms of violence and rape. Azul was forced to strip naked and was raped with a police baton.

Although after her release she filed a criminal complaint for rape, abuse of authority and torture with the Peruvian authorities against the officers responsible, 10 years later those responsible have not been properly prosecuted or punished in Peru. In addition to the fact that the State failed to comply with its duty to investigate the facts promptly, throughout the investigation, Azul was disparaged and her credibility was questioned causing her to be revictimized both by justice officials during the gathering of evidence and in the decision-making process that led to the dismissal of the complaint for the crime of torture (for the alleged lack of evidence to prove the violence committed against Azul).

Given this situation, with the legal assistance of the Center for the Promotion and the Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Promsex), the National Coordinator of Human Rights (CNDDHH) and REDRESS, an international organization that fights against torture, Azul filed her case at the IACHR. The Commission considered that the State breached its duty of care and protection of a victim who reports sexual violence, with the existing prejudice regarding LGBTI persons being an aggravating factor.

In analysing the facts of the case, the Commission found sufficient reasons and evidence to decide that, because of the nature and manner in which the violence was exercised, there was a particular cruelty connected with the identification or perception of Azul Rojas Marín, at that time, as a gay man.

The Commission considered that what happened to the victim should be understood as discriminatory violence and that the treatment constituted torture. The Commission also determined that the mother of Azul Rojas Marín suffered as a result of what happened to her daughter, due to the prejudice and lack of action by the State. Her mother died while still waiting for justice in this case.

The Commission recommended that Peru adopt a series of measures to redress both the material and moral damages suffered by Azul Rojas Marín and her mother. These measures should include measures of satisfaction and compensation, as well as a public apology. The Commission also recommended that Peru carry out a prompt and effective investigation of the facts; provide Azul with the necessary medical and psychological treatment; and adopt non-repetition mechanisms, such as, for example, running training programs for all officials who have contact with victims of violence due to prejudice or who are in charge of investigating, including sexual (and other) violence against the LGBTI population.

For the IACHR, the case will allow the Inter-American Court to establish standards regarding cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence, including torture, by State security agents committed against LGTBI persons, as well as to deepen its jurisprudence on the duty of due diligence in the criminal investigation, preparation of evidentiary material and punishment of those responsible for cases of violence committed against LGTBI people.

The IACHR submitted the case to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court on August 22, 2018, as a result of the failure by the Peruvian State to present any proposals for comprehensive reparation in favour of Azul Rojas Marín and her mother, despite the seriousness of the sexual torture that she suffered.

The petitioning organizations consider that after more than 10 years of waiting, the presentation of the case to the Inter-American Court represents hope in the search for justice and reparation for Azul and her mother as well as an opportunity for the Peruvian State to eradicate from its institutional practices systematic violence against LGTBI people. Likewise, this case can help combat and prevent violence of various types that continues to affect LGTBI people in the region.

Brenda Álvarez, Litigation Coordinator of ​​Promsex, explained the importance of this decision:

“The presentation of the case to the Inter-American Court demonstrates once again the lack of will of the Peruvian State to redress the violation of the rights of Azul, who is one of the many victims of violence committed due to prejudice against LGTBI people in Peru. “

Ana María Vidal, Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Coordinator of Human Rights said:

“In this emblematic case, the police responsible for this crime have not to date been criminally or administratively sanctioned; the Forensic Medicine personnel who failed to verify Azul’s injuries have also not been sanctioned, and nor have the personnel of the Prosecutor’s Office who failed to act in accordance with their responsibilities. Together this shows that there is impunity in this case, and shows how there is no real intention on the part of the State to achieve justice for the crimes that are committed against LGTBI people.”

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said:

The case of Azul is emblematic of a widespread pattern of discrimination against LGBTI persons in Peru. We hope that this case will help draw attention to this serious problem and the need for the Peruvian State to take effective measures to combat it.

In the absence of official figures, it is worth remembering that, according to the IACHR itself, there were 24 attacks on life and integrity against LGTBI people in Peru between January 2013 and March 2014 (17 murders and 7 assaults).

In addition, Promsex and the Peruvian LGBT Network have reported that, between April 2014 and March 2015, there were 4 suicides, 13 murders and 13 cases of physical aggression in different regions of the country against LGTBI people.

Between March 2015 and April 2016, 43 assaults on personal security, 8 murders and 8 cases of domestic violence were committed against LGTBI people.

For more information, please contact: Eva Sanchis, Communication Director of REDRESS, on [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7793 1777 and/or Greece Delta, Communications Coordinator of Promsex, on [email protected] or +51 (01) 447-8668, annex 118