The Organization of American States (OAS) is criticizing an Argentine court that absolved three men for the rape and femicide of 16-year-old Lucia Perez two years ago in a case that helped spark the #niunamas (not one more) movement in Latin America.
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The OAS Compliance Committee for the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women (Mesecvi) sent a letter directly to Argentina’s Supreme Court Saturday regarding the Mar del Plata court’s decision to acquit Alejandro Maciel (61), Matias Farias (25), and Pablo Offidani (43) for the drugging, rape and murder of 16-year-old Lucia Perez on Oct. 8, 2016.
Last week the all-male tribunal sentenced Offidani and Farias to eight years in prison for "possession of, and intent to sell narcotics” and forced them to pay US$3,475, while Maciel, charged of helping to cover up the crime, walked away free.
The gender violence experts of the OAS Mesecvi, including Argentine lawyer Susana Chiarotti, said the ruling demonstrated "a clear violation of the human rights of women" and a judicial bias toward the men in the case.
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The committee called on Argentina’s supreme court to rule on the side of justice and rectify the judges’ decision.
"Take all necessary measures to provide effective access to justice for Lucia's relatives and for all women victims and survivors of violence, applying the international human rights norms for women, especially those emanating from the convention ... and other international legislation on the human rights of women and girls," said Mesecvi experts in their joint statement.
The committee also said the sentences received by the accused "sent a message that violence against women is tolerated and reflected clear gender stereotypes."
Lawyers for Perez’s family initially said the young woman was “impaled” to death, but the court dismissed these claims saying she probably died from "toxic asphyxiation." The exact cause of her death has still not been conclusive.
Chiarotti told Pagina 12 media of Argentina: "After reading the ruling I felt as though I was reading a sentence from 40 or 50 years ago when there was no convention, nor a recognition gender categories," the lawyer said.
The gender rights expert said she found the judges used double standards when examining evidence and scrutinized Perez while protecting the male perpetrators.
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“The victim was studied meticulously and all of her private life was put on display (before the court): testimonies from friends, relatives, Whatsapp messages, chats. She had no right to privacy,” says Chiarotti. “However,” she says, “when prosecutors tried to enter into evidence how the main defendant was visiting porn pages, the judges were outraged and protected his constitutional right to privacy.”
Also, Chiarotti pointed out, defense lawyers painted Perez as a “promiscuous, liberal, strong and drug-consuming young woman, which contradicts her profile.” It was made clear throughout the trial, says Chiarotti, that the victim was not a drug addict, but since she did not represent the “perfect victim — virginal, defenseless” the judges ruled in favor of the defendants.
The committee letter pointed out that Art. 7 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women says that signatory nations “must act with due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women and take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to modify or abolish existing laws and regulations … that support the persistence or tolerance of violence against women.”
The Femicide Observatory of Argentina says that 225 women were murdered between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2018, in Argentina.