El Salvador: we demand that the Rights of Imelda Cortez be Guaranteed

Our Movement
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Imelda is a young woman from Jiquilisco, El Salvador. Imelda has lived in extreme poverty and in a socially vulnerable situation her entire life. She was repeatedly raped and sexually abused by her stepfather from the age of 12 onward.

At 18 years of age, Imelda became pregnant as a result of the repeated rape she had undergone at the hands of her 70-year-old stepfather. On 17 April 2017, she suffered a medical emergency and went into labour. Unable to give birth to her daughter in a hospital, she was accused of aggravated homicide.

Imelda’s rights during the trial have not been guaranteed. She has been deprived of her freedom, despite the fact that there was no justification for the use of that measure, a clear breach of the presumption of innocence. The pretrial hearing, which serves to determine whether a public hearing is required, was postponed seven times because of procedural errors committed within the justice system. 

Furthermore, a thorough investigation of the facts has not been performed. To the contrary, the accusations are based on patriarchal stereotypes and presumptions that are lacking in any factual basis, a clear demonstration of the policy of criminalizing women that is common within the Office of the Prosecutor in El Salvador.

Despite the fact that Imelda has been the victim of sexual violence, she remains in detention, and the State has failed to ensure that she receives medical and psychological treatment, which represents a risk to her health and life. 

In contrast, the investigation against her rapist has been delayed because the Office of the Prosecutor does not accept Imelda’s testimony as valid, going so far as to oppose the investigations that have upheld the statement of the young woman. 

At only 20 years of age, Imelda has faced a gross and ongoing violation of her rights, with no recourse in the face of a State that has criminalized her and denied her the vital medical treatment that is part and parcel of her fundamental right to life and protection.

We, the undersigned organizations hereby state that El Salvador owes Imelda and all other women who have been criminalized in similar situations, and that debt is profound. Imelda’s case once again highlights the criminalization of poor and marginalized women in El Salvador who are guilty of nothing more than an obstetrical emergency.

In the case of crimes of sexual violence like the one Imelda was the victim of, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has stated that “victims must be given medical, health and psychological care, both emergency and continuing care as required.” Furthermore, “the criminal investigation must incorporate a gender perspective and be performed by officials who have been trained in similar cases and who have received training in the care and treatment of victims of gender-based discrimination and violence.”

We acknowledge Imelda’s strength and her fight to regain control over her life, and we call on the State of El Salvador to guarantee the conditions for a fair and independent trial that evaluates the facts and meets international standarts for women’s rights and due process.

Finally, we the undersigned organizations hope that in the trial, it is recognized that the accusations against Imelda have no basis in fact and that the State will assume its responsibilities and immediately adopt the most effective measures to provide integrated protection and care to Imelda.

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  • Co-signatories

    Signatory Organizations

    Asamblea Popular Feminista Chile

    Corporación Humanas

    Costa Rica
    Universidad de Costa Rica
    Asociación Ciudadana ACCEDER
    Aborto Legal Costa Rica

    El Salvador

    Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala AMG

    Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (CDM)
    Coalición Todas

    Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM)

    Regionales e Internacionales
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
    Comité de América Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM) 
    Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos (FIDH)
    Fondo de Acción Urgente para América Latina y el Caribe
    Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM- Defensoras)
    IPAS Centroamérica 
    Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad
    Women’s Equality Center

  • Member organisations - El Salvador
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