Linda Loaiza, Venezuelan survivor of gender violence, makes history at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Caracas and Washington, D.C. November 16, 2018.- After more than 17 years of waiting, Linda Loaiza, a Venezuelan woman survivor of torture and rape at the hands of a well-connected aggressor, achieved an important step towards justice through a ruling issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court of Human Rights) that found the Venezuelan State guilty for its inability to prevent the abuse or investigate her case.

"This triumph of justice will only be effective when the State fulfills its sentence, but I will not surrender. For years, I have been an emblematic image in the fight against the physical, sexual and psychological violence that women face in my country. This impelled me to continue and sustain the struggle of others like me, as an advocate for their causes," said Linda Loaiza, who today is a Venezuelan lawyer. "Now, I feel like can tell the women of Venezuela and Latin America that have not been able to obtain justice within their home countries for the violations of their rights that reparations are achievable."

The ruling, published today by the Inter-American Court, concluded that the State, because of its inability to prevent or investigate the events while they occurred, was responsible for enabling the sexual slavery and torture of Linda Loaiza. This makes it the first time that the violence committed against a woman by the hands of an individual is classified as torture within the Inter-American System. Additionally, the decision found that the internal legal process was undergirded by a discriminatory framework that led to stereotyping and gender bias.  

The process further victimized Linda Loaiza and damaged her chances of obtaining justice within a national jurisdiction. The Inter-American Court recognized that this, together with the inadequate classification of the crime of torture, influenced a lesser sentence against her aggressor. Lastly, the Court considered the protection measures and the investigation of the threats and harassment against Linda Loaiza López Soto, her relatives and lawyer ineffective.

As a result, the Court ordered for all criminal proceedings against her aggressor to continue, specifically for acts of torture and sexual violence. Moreover, the decision stated that those who were responsible for obstructing Linda´s search for justice should also be investigated and punished when appropriate. It also ordered the adoption and implementation of public policies for the investigation and comprehensive care of women victims of violence; the implementation of specialized Courts to address the topic of Violence against Women in each Venezuelan state capital; the incorporation of a permanent gender education program under the name of "Linda Loaiza" into the National Education System´s national curriculum; and the collection of updated data and information linked to cases of violence against women throughout Venezuela

"This decision by the Inter-American Court sets a historic precedent in terms of violence against women and the discrimination they frequently face when accessing justice," said Elsa Meany, Senior Lawyer at the Center for Justice and International Law, CEJIL. "It could lay the foundations for Venezuela to carry out structural changes in laws, public policies and the administration of justice in terms of preventing and punishing violence against women in Venezuela." Finally, the Inter-American Court ordered an integral reparation to Linda and her relatives, demanding that those responsible for the acts of torture and sexual violence of Linda Loaiza be punished promptly and effectively, as well as an investigation and punishment within a reasonable period of time for officials who did not investigate what happened to them from the start.

"With this ruling the State will start to address its pending debt with Linda and thousands of other Venezuelan women who are victimized and attacked when they try to raise their voice," said Liliana Ortega of COFAVIC, "Venezuela now has enough tools to ensure that such events do not happen again. "