Belén arrived at a public hospital in Tucumán province so they could treat her for stomach pain. She did not know that she was suffering a miscarriage, which was written down in her medical history as “an incomplete spontaneous miscarriage without complications.” From the moment she arrived at the hospital, she suffered state-inflicted human rights violations, in breach of their obligations of respect, protection and guarantee of her human rights. Belén was discharged from the hospital and taken prison. She has been held in preventive prison for over two years. In late April, she was sentenced to eight years for “aggravated homicide due to family relationship.” The ruling of the III Chamber of the Criminal Court of Tucumán was based in part on the argument that Belén’s public defender did not question the charges that were brought against her, rather than on the evidence presented in the case.
Ten human rights organizations filed amicus curiae before the Supreme Court of Justice of Tucumán, which is scheduled to rule on the appeal filed by Belén’s lawyer, Soledad Deza, from the association Catholics for the Right to Decide.
The amicus outline the legal arguments for the overturning of Belén’s sentence and for granting her unconditional and immediate release.
The state, through the medical services and judicial operators, humiliated and badly treated this young woman. As such, it breached its duty of prevent and eradicate violence against women. In particular, the doctors subjected her to obstetric violence, violated physician-patient privilege and failed to protect her right to doctor-patient confidentiality. The justice system first remanded her to preventive prison and soon after convicted her in an irregular process, without respecting presumption of innocence or her right to put on a defense at trial.
The United Nations and the Inter-American System, through its organs and specific documents (CEDAW and its general recommendations—19, 24 and 33 concern the specific case of Belén—the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention of Belém do Pará) have highlighted on different opportunities the human rights standards that a state must meet in order to guarantee the protection of women. On July 15, the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its final observations about Argentina said that the State “must review the case of Belén, in light of international standards in the matter, aimed at her immediate release and, in light of this case, consider the decriminalization of abortion.”
The circumstances surrounding Belén’s case constitute another link in institutionally instigated gender violence. The Argentine government’s criminal policy maintains a discriminatory matrix that conditions young and poor women’s access to human rights. In Argentina, unsafe abortion is a serious public health problem, involving risks to health and life. For the last thirty years, complications arising from unsafe abortions have been the main cause of maternal mortality. Based on these inequities, we insist on the need for free, safe and legal abortion.
A press conference will be held July 28 in Tucumán.
Abogados y Abogadas del NOA en DDHH y Estudios Sociales – ANDHES
Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos – APDH
Asociación de Abogados de Buenos Aires – AABA
Asociación Pensamiento Penal – APP
Amnesty International – AI
Center for Legal and Social Studies – CELS
Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres – CLADEM
Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Género – ELA
Innocence Project Argentina – IP Argentina
National Deputy Soledad Sosa – Frente de Izquierda, Partido Obrero