Inter-American Court of Human Rights Awards Damages to Indigenous Rape Victims
Thursday, November 4, 2010 12:55 PM

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued separate rulings in favor of two indigenous Tlapanec women who were raped by military soldiers in 2002, after an eight year legal struggle by the victims. The court stated that Mexico failed to uphold "the rights to personal integrity, dignity and legal protection of Ines Fernandez and Valentina Rosendo.”

Fernandez was raped in March of 2002, after military soldiers entered her home and demanded to know where she had obtained the beef she was cooking. When she was unable to reply, the soldiers became angry and proceeded to rape her in front of her four small children.

Rosendo was raped a month earlier under similar circumstances. She was washing clothes when approached and questioned by a group of soldiers. Like Fernandez, Rosendo could not reply because she does not speak Spanish, and was subsequently raped by one of the soldiers.

Both women were under 18 years old at the time they were assaulted, and have faced numerous obstacles in pursuing justice since the events. The women reported their cases to local authorities, but the investigation and prosecution efforts were marked by indifferent treatment by experts, a lack of interest in securing evidence, and discrimination against the victims. After several months the cases were turned over to the military courts, which in 2006 ruled that there was insufficient evidence to find the accused soldiers guilty.

Undeterred, the women took their stories to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which then referred the cases to the Inter American Court of Human Rights. According to the decision of this court, the two women will each be compensated with judgments upwards of $100,000. The court also ordered that Mexico modernize its legal system so that violations of human rights will not be investigated in military courts.

Compiled from: Two Indigenous Mexican Rape Victims Awarded Damages, Feminist Daily News, Mexico: Indigenous Rape Victims Fight Military Impunity, Inter Press Service, (2 November 2010).