Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Status of signatures and ratifications to Belem do Para. Organization of American States [Internet]. 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belém do Pará (where it was adopted in 1994), defines violence against women, establishes that women have the right to live a life free of violence and that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

It calls for the first time for the establishment of mechanisms for protecting and defending women's rights as essential to combating the phenomenon of violence against women's physical, sexual, and psychological integrity, whether in the public or the private sphere, and for asserting those rights within society.

Inter-American Commission On Human Rights And The Inter-American Court Of Human Rights. Icelandic Human Rights Centre [Internet]. 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Inter-American Commission is a quasi-judicial, quasi-political body established by the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights . It is based in Washington DC, USA.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Located under "Annexes."

This report addresses the situation of missing and murdered indigenous women in British Columbia, Canada. It analyzes the context in which indigenous women have gone missing and been murdered over the past several years and the response to this human rights issue by the Canadian State. The report offers recommendations geared towards assisting the State in strengthening its efforts to protect and guarantee indigenous women’s rights.

Indigenous women and girls in Canada have been murdered or have gone missing at a rate four times higher than the rate of representation of indigenous women in the Canadian population which is 4.3%. The most comprehensive numbers available were collected by the non-profit organization Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) through an initiative financed by the governmental entity Status of Women Canada. As of March 31, 2010, NWAC has gathered information regarding 582 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls across the country from the past 30 years. Civil society organizations have long claimed that the number could be much higher, and new research indicates that over 1000 indigenous women could be missing or dead across Canada. Although high numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada have been identified at both the national and international levels, there are no trustworthy statistics that could assist in reaching a fuller understanding of this problem. The Government itself recognizes that Canada’s official statistics do not provide accurate information regarding the true numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women. In addition, there is no reliable source of disaggregated data on violence against indigenous women and girls because police across Canada do not consistently report or record whether or not the victims of violent crime are indigenous.

As the report explains, the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women are particularly concerning when considered in light of the fact that indigenous people represent a small percentage of the total population of Canada. Although the information received by the Commission indicates that this could be a nationwide phenomenon, this report is focused on the situation in British Columbia, because the number of missing and murdered indigenous women is higher there in absolute terms than any other province or territory in Canada. 


Advocacy before the Inter-American System: Manual for Attorneys and Advocates. International Justice Resource Center; 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

International Justice Resource Center's publication, Advocacy before the Inter-American System: Manual for Attorneys and Advocates (2014) provides detailed information on the System, its components, complaints procedure, and decisions (also available in SpanishPortuguese and Haitian Creole).

Declaration Of The Committee Of Experts Of The MESECVI On The Celebration Of The Twentieth Anniversary Of The Adoption Of The Belém Do Pará Convention. Organization of American States [Internet]. 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Can be found under "Key Results" from the Tenth Meeting of the Committee of Experts

CONSIDERING that the year 2014 will mark twenty years since the adoption of the Belém do Pará Convention and ten years since the creation of the MESECVI by the General Assembly of the OAS and that this historic moment warrants broad reflection on the impact of the Convention for the States Party and the women of the hemisphere reiterates its commitment to support the efforts of OAS Member States and civil society to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Belém do Pará Convention and the tenth anniversary of the creation of the MESECVI, which will include national and sub­regional forums and meetings for progress reports on implementation of the Belém do Pará Convention. 

Moser PT. The Duty to Ensure Human Rights and its Evolution in the Inter-American System: Comparing Maria da Penha v. Brazil With Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States. Journal of Gender, Social Policy & The Law [Internet]. 2013;21 (2) :437-453. Publisher's VersionAbstract

*This full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

First, this Article explains the facts and the Commission's legal analysis in Maria da Penha and Lenahan and briefly describes the different approach taken by the Commission in each case.

Second, this Article analyzes the evolution in the case law that led to the recognition that a State's failure to prevent and investigate could constitute a violation of substantive rights. Third, this Article examines the standard the Commission utilized in analyzing the duty to prevent in Lenahan and describes the theory of foreseeable risk, how it has been used, and the role it played in the Lenahan case. Finally, this Article discusses the theory of foreseeable risk, its application to cases of domestic violence, and the significance of this development in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American system.

This Article concludes that the recognition of substantive rights may be violated by the failure of the State to prevent and investigate, and that the use of the theory of foreseeable risk constitutes a significant step forward in clarifying the obligation of States to fight domestic violence. Finding a State responsible for failing to prevent, pursuant to the theory of foreseeable risk, implies that the State knew or ought to have known there was an imminent risk of domestic violence, and in the face of this foreseeable risk, the State failed to take action. This lack of prevention might be considered the equivalent of acquiescence pursuant to the definition of torture in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)." Consequently, this evolution could, and hopefully will, result in a recognition in the Inter-American System that in certain circumstances domestic violence constitutes torture.

Second Hemispheric Report on the Implementation of the Belem do Para Convention. Organization of American States [Internet]. 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Second Hemispheric Report on on the Implementation of the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI, 2012)

The Second Hemispheric Report reviews the progress made by the States Party in their implementation of the Belém do Pará Convention, as well as the significant challenges that remain in the region in terms of a timely, appropriate and effective response to acts of violence against women, from a perspective of human rights.

The Report consolidates the results and recommendations from the 28 national reports presented to the MESECVI during the Second Multilaterial Evaluation Round, and offers a comparative overview of the progress made between the First and Second Rounds.

Judgments of the Inter-American Court. Organization of American States; 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A list of judgments made by the OAS on human rights cases. 

Spieler P. Contributions to the Debate on Domestic Violence Against Women in Brazil. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies [Internet]. 2011;18 (1) :121-143. Publisher's VersionAbstract

*The full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

This article aims to demonstrate the contributions of the Maria da Penha case and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Report of 2001 to the debate on domestic violence against women in Brazil, with special emphasis to the adoption of the Maria da Penha Law. The IACHR was the first international human rights organ to bring to light the problem. Beside contributing to internal changes, this case has great relevance as it was the first one of domestic violence analyzed by the Inter-American Commission. It revealed the systematic pattern of violence against women in the country. 

Killander M. Interpreting Regional Human Rights Treaties. Social Science Research Network [Internet]. 2010;(13) :145-169. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Whether included in national bills of rights or regional or global human rights treaties, human rights are often vague. They require interpretation. The article illustrates how regional human rights tribunals have largely followed the rules for treaty interpretation set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. In the interpretation of rights and their limitations the European Court has traditionally put greater emphasis on regional consensus than the Inter-American Court and the African Commission which often look outside their continents to treaties and soft law of the UN and the jurisprudence of other regional tribunals. However, there is a trend towards universalism also in the jurisprudence of the European Court. The article illustrates that the reasoning of the regional tribunals is sometimes inadequate. The quality of the reasoning of the tribunals is important as it provides states and individuals with predictability so that action can be taken to avoid human rights violations. Good reasoning may also help to achieve compliance with the decisions and societal acceptance on controversial issues.

Manjoo R. Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development: Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo - 23 April 2. United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; 2010. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Report located in the third row of the second page - A/HRC/14/22

This is the first thematic report submitted to the Human Rights Council by Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, since her appointment in June 2009. In addition to providing an overview of the main activities carried out by the Special Rapporteur, the report focuses on the topic of reparations to women who have been subjected to violence in contexts of both peace and post-conflict.

Abramovich V. Responsabilidad estatal por violencia de género: comentarios sobre el caso “Campo Algodonero” en la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.; 2010 pp. 167-182. Publisher's VersionAbstract

El artículo analiza la violencia de género y su relación con la discriminación estructural, y los distintos modelos de imputación de responsabilidad internacional del Estado por actos de terceros que se desprenden de los precedentes de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, en la sentencia del Caso González y otras (Campo Algodonero) vs. México.  

Tools for the Protection of Human Rights - Summaries of Jurisprudence: Gender-based Violence. Center for Justice and International Law; 2010. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This compilation of international standards provides a solid jurisprudential research body and it presents a wider panorama of women’s reality in very different contexts revealing the indisputable persistence of gender-based violence in the world, in spite of the advances in the normative field. The selected cases are some of the most paradigmatic ones among those which, to date, have motivated some type of response from human rights protection systems.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case of González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico. Organization of American States; 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

  • Pages 47-61, Facts
  • Pages 145-150, Summary of Decision
  • Pages 152-161, Concurring Opinions

1. On November 4, 2007, under Articles 51 and 61 of the Convention, the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission” or “the Inter- American Commission”) presented an application against the United Mexican States (hereinafter “the State” or “Mexico”), which gave rise to the instant case. The initial petition was presented to the Commission on March 6, 2002. On February 24, 2005, the Commission approved Reports Nos. 16/05, 17/05 and 18/05, declaring the respective petitions admissible. On January 30, 2007, the Commission notified the parties of its decision to joinder the three cases. Subsequently, on March 9, 2007, it approved the Report on merits No. 28/07, in accordance with Article 50 of the Convention, with specific recommendations for the State. This report was notified to the State on April 4, 2007. Upon considering that Mexico had not adopted its recommendations, the Commission decided to submit the case to the jurisdiction of the Court. The Commission appointed Commissioner Florentín Meléndez and Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton, as delegates, and Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, Deputy Executive Secretary, and Juan Pablo Albán, Marisol Blanchard, Rosa Celorio and Fiorella Melzi, Executive Secretariat specialists, as legal advisers.

2. The application relates to the State’s alleged international responsibility for “the disappearance and subsequent death” of the Mss. Claudia Ivette González, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal and Laura Berenice Ramos Monárrez (hereinafter “Mss. González, Herrera and Ramos”), whose bodies were found in a cotton field in Ciudad Juárez on November 6, 2001. The State is considered responsible for “the lack of measures for the protection of the victims, two of whom were minor children, the lack of prevention of these crimes, in spite of full awareness of the existence of a pattern of gender- related violence that had resulted in hundreds of women and girls murdered, the lack of response of the authorities to the disappearance [...]; the lack of due diligence in the investigation of the homicides [...], as well as the denial of justice and the lack of an adequate reparation.” 

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case of González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico.; 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In its 2009 judgment in the Case of González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico, the Court held Mexico to be responsible for human rights violations based on the handling of investigations into disappearances and deaths of women and girls in Ciudad Juárez. The state's actions, the court opined, contributed to the atmosphere of impunity surrounding the maltreatment of women in the city.

Priority Issues: Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence: Femicide. Organization of American States; 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Can be located by downloading zip file of the 34th assembly, document "AoD34-Doc13.08[EN].pdf"

Until 1992, the term femicide was used in the press and society to refer colloquially to the killing of women. In that year, Diana Russell and Jill Radford imbued the concept with legal and social content in their text Femicide: The Politics of Women Killing, defining it as the murder of women, by men, because they were women. They developed the term to refer to the gender-based motives behind the deaths of women at the hands of men: attempts to control their lives, bodies, and/or sexuality, to the point of punishing with death those who did not accept such subjection.

Subsequently, Marcela Lagarde took Russell and Radford’s notion of femicide and developed it as feminicide, rather than femicide, which would become the literal translation. For Lagarde, while femicide means the killing of women without specifying the causes of such deaths, the term feminicide lends itself better to covering the gender-based reasons and social construct underlying such deaths, as well as the impunity surrounding them. Lagarde uses the term feminicide in analyzing the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

However, at the international level, the terms feminicide and femicide are being used indistinctly to refer to the same problem, although in the case of the Caribbean, no such disagreement exists and only the term femicide is used.

Moreover, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted the term feminicide in 2007, in the case of Bolivia, based on discussion in the “In-depth study on all forms of violence against women” of the United Nations Secretary-General, who also refers to this problem as feminicidio [in Spanish, but the English version uses only femicide – tr.].4/ Prior to that, the IACHR referred to this problem as murder of women, and expressed its concern by convening a thematic hearing on this problem (2006). The IACHR has admitted four cases on murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. 

Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas: Efforts to Comply With the Due Diligence Obligation in Response to Acts of Violence Against Women. Organization of American States [Internet]. 2007. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Rapporteurship received information on the efforts made within the administration of justice system to improve the prosecution of cases involving violence against women and the treatment of victims when they turn to judicial institutions of protection.  Salient here is the preparation of national diagnostic studies examining how the domestic administration of justice systems deal with cases of violence against women, creation of special courts and units within the public prosecutor’s office and the police to deal specifically with gender issues and equipped with special expertise, creation of training programs for those in the justice system and the police, and programs to provide advocate services to victims who have turned to the judicial system.  A number of court rulings have been delivered underscoring the necessity of protecting the rights of women victims of violence, and the appointment of a number of women to the benches of the Supreme Courts in the region.

With international cooperation, research, studies and analyses have been conducted in a number of countries on how the justice systems and other state institutions respond to and treat cases involving violence and discrimination of women, the purpose being to discover ways to improve the judicial response.  In Bolivia, for example, the Constitutional Tribunal ordered a study, which was conducted with support from the Spanish Government, to identify the kinds of discrimination that women suffer in the administration of justice system.

Borelli S. Positive Obligations of States and the Protection of Human Rights. INTERIGHTS Bulletin [Internet]. 2006;15 (4) :101-103. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The recognition of a duty incumbent upon states ‘to take action’ is, at base, the common denominator of all understandings of the notion of ‘positive obligations’. In the specific context of international human rights law, the notion is one which has been frequently invoked both by treaty-monitoring bodies and in the academic literature; however, the term apparently bears differing meanings for different writers, depending on the context and the obligation under discussion. A number of different uses can accordingly be discerned, which to some extent overlap and interact. 

Effective Implementation of the Convention of Belém do Pará. A task still to be done. Amnesty International; 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ten years after the adoption of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, "Convention of Belém do Pará", Amnesty International presents this report that describes and analyzes the main features of the proposal put forward by the Inter-American Commission of Women for establishing a follow-up mechanism on the implementation of the Convention of Belém do Pará. The report also contains a series of recommendations addressed to the bodies and governments involved in drawing up the proposal.

Violence in the Americas: A Regional Analysis. Organization of American States [Internet]. 2001. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Document can be located at the bottom of the web page

As a legally binding instrument, the Convention is unique in that it clearly delineates the state’s obligations to protect women’s right to a life without violence. Article 5 of the Convention states that:

Every woman is entitled to the free and full exercise of her civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and may rely on the full protection of those rights as embodied in regional and international instruments on human rights. The States Parties recognize that violence against women prevents and nullifies the exercise of these rights.

Article 7 of the Convention articulates the obligations of States Parties with respect to their role in the protection of women’s right to a life without violence. Specific obligations are listed that flow from the States Parties’ formal undertakings to refrain from committing acts of violence against women; demonstrate due diligence in preventing, investigating, and punishing violence against women; reform existing laws, policies, and administrative practices contributing to violence against women; and ensure that women victims have access to restitution, reparations, and other forms of just and effective remedies. Article 8 of the Convention also specifies that a number of other programs and measures must be adopted to promote public education and awareness, to mobilize communities in the fight against violence against women, and to offer specialized services and assistance to women victims.

The current review focuses on the implementation of the measures and dispositions described in articles 7 and 8 of the Convention. It also considers the efforts that are being deployed, as required by Article 9 of the Convention, to take special account of the vulnerability of women to violence by reason of their age, race, ethnic background, status as immigrants, socioeconomic position, or disabilities, among other factors.