I.V. v. Bolivia (Admissibility)

Report No. 40/08, Petition 270-07, July 23, 2008; OEA/Ser.L/V/II.134, Doc. 5, rev. 1, 25 February 2009
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In 2000, the Ombudsman of Bolivia, on behalf of the victim, lodged a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging that victim was submitted to a surgical procedure of ligature of the fallopian tubes in a public hospital without her informed consent and this was therefore an involuntary sterilization. The Ombudsman further alleged that, as a consequence of this procedure, the victim lost her reproductive capacity permanently, and that the acts have remained in a complete state of impunity because of undue and unjustified delays in the criminal process and that the victim is still suffering the physical and psychological consequences of that operation. The State maintained that while carrying out a caesarean medical problems were discovered, prompting the doctor to inform of the risks she would face if she were to become pregnant again. The doctor then suggested that a ligature of the fallopian tubes should be carried out, to which the State maintains she verbally consented.

The Ombudsman argued that the acts constituted violations of Articles 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to fair trial), 11 (right to privacy), 13 (right to freedom of expression), 17 (right to family), and 25 (right to judicial protection), as well as a violation of Article 7 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará), which outlines some of the measures that states should take to combat violence against women.

The Commission declared the case admissible under Articles 5(1) (right to humane treatment), 8(1) (right to fair trial), 11(2) (right to privacy), 13 (right to freedom of expression), 17 (right to family), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention and Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará.

The Commission considered that if it were proven that a sterilization procedure were carried out in a public hospital without consent, and if this resulted in negative physical and psychological effects on her, this could amount to a possible violation of the right of every person to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.

"80. The Commission considers that if it were proven that a sterilization procedure were carried out in a public hospital without consent, and if this resulted in the physical and psychological effects on I.V., this could amount to a possible violation of the rights enshrined in Article 5(1) of the American Convention in relation to the obligations enshrined in Article 1(1) of the same instrument. Equally, the facts could amount to a possible violation of Article 11(2) of the American Convention in relation to the obligations enshrined in Article 1(1) of the same instrument, with regard to the allegations made by the petitioner concerning the arbitrary interference by state employees in the private life of I.V. regarding whether or not to maintain her reproductive function, invading her private life."

"81. The Commission also considers that the facts could amount to a possible violation of Article 13 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations enshrined in Article 1(1) of the same instrument, allegedly for not having been adequately informed of the effects, risks and consequences of the surgical operation she was submitted to, and/or alternative methods as demanded by Bolivian law and the international standards of human rights in this area."

"82. Furthermore, the facts could amount to a possible violation of Article 17 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations established in Article 1(1) of the same instrument, regarding the arbitrary interference of state employees in the right of I.V. to decide freely and responsibly on the number of her children, and consequently the size of her family."

"83. Also, the Commission considers that the sterilization procedure that was allegedly carried out by public officials without the consent of the alleged victim, as well as the physical and psychological consequences of the medical operation, could amount to a possible violation of Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará. Similarly, the alleged delay in the criminal proceedings against those alleged to be responsible attributed to the judicial authorities could also amount to a violation of the same Article."

"84. The Commission also considers that the alleged irregularities and delays that characterized the criminal proceedings, attributed to the judicial authorities, could amount to a possible violation of the rights enshrined in Articles 8(1) and 25 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations defined in Article 1(1) of the same instrument."

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