Paola Del Rosario Guzman Albarracin and Next of Kin v. Ecuador

Report No. 76/08, Petition 1055-06, October 17, 2008; OEA/Ser.L/V/II.134, Doc. 5, rev. 1, 25 February 2009
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The Centro de Derechos Reproductivos (Center for Reproductive Rights) and the Centro Ecuatoriano para la Promoción y Acción de la Mujer (Center for the Advancement and Action of Women) (CEPAM-Guayaquil) alleged that the assistant principal at the public school where Paola del Rosario Guzmán Albarracín, age 16, was a student, took advantage of his position of authority to sexually harass the alleged victim and that, as a result, she committed suicide. She was 14 years old and in her second year of the basic curriculum at the time. Other students and female teachers at the school had accused the assistant principal of sexual harassment.

Ms. Albarracín told schoolmates and friends that she had decided to end her pregnancy by an injection from the school doctor. Petitioners contended that according to the testimony of a friend of Ms. Albarracín, the school doctor would only help her if she agreed to have sexual relations with him. Approximately a month after deciding to terminate her pregnancy and encountering sexual harassment from the school doctor, Ms. Albarracín swallowed 11 small, penny-sized fireworks at home before leaving for school. After learning what she had done, friends of Ms. Albarracín took her to the school infirmary and called her mother. Petitioners contend that the school authorities did not tell Ms. Albarracín’s mother what had happened and did not take the necessary steps to have her taken to a hospital. Petitioners contend that it was not until the mother arrived at the school thirty minutes later that Ms. Albarracín was taken to a hospital. She died hours later as a result of ingesting white phosphorus. Petitioners allege that a call for a taxi by the school doorman – on express orders from the school’s assistant principal – was the only help Ms. Albarracín’s mother received in getting her daughter to a hospital.

Petitioners alleged that Ecuador violated article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) by failing to provide Ms. Albarracín with prompt medical attention and failing to offer to take her immediately to a hospital, because in its view “it was too late” to help her.

Petitioners claimed that sexual harassment is common in Ecuador’s educational institutions and Ms. Albarracín’s case represents the kind of sexual violence that teachers in Ecuador’s public schools commit against female students.

Petitioners alleged violations of articles 4 (right to life), 5 (right to human treatment), 7 (right to personal liberty), 8 (right to a fair trial), 19 (rights of the child), 24 (right to equal protection) and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the Convention.

The petition admissible with regard to the alleged violations of the rights recognized in articles 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to a fair trial), 19 ( right of the child), 24 (right to equal protection) and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) thereof, and Article 7 (duties of the States) of the Convention of Belém do Pará, to the detriment of Paola del Rosario Guzmán Albarracín and her next of kin.

“The Commission is of the view that the admissibility of the present case cannot be conditional upon the exhaustion of judicial proceedings that have been suspended since August 25, 2004, and that given the period of time that has passed since the facts that prompted the complaint occurred, the Commission considers that the exception provided for in Article 46(2)(c) of the American Convention applies, which is the exception allowed in the case of an unwarranted delay in rendering a final judgment. The rule requiring exhaustion of domestic remedies does not, therefore, apply.” Para. 43.

“The Commission finds that in the instant case, the proper determination is that the petitioners' claims of an alleged violation of the rights to life, to humane treatment, to a fair trial, the rights of the child, to equal protection and the right to judicial protection, could characterize violations of the rights protected under articles 4, 5, 8, 19, 24 and 25 of the American Convention, in combination with Article 1(1) thereof, and Article 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará, to the detriment of Paola del Rosario Guzmán Albarracín and her next of kin.” Para. 49.