Imagine waking up in a hospital and learning that you are under arrest, accused of killing your own infant.
Despite your efforts to explain that you had a miscarriage and passed out from medical complications, the authorities sentence you to up to four decades in an overcrowded prison where you “suffer harassment, exclusion, and violence both from other inmates as well as prison personnel” because of the accusations against you.
This unthinkable horror has really happened to poor women in El Salvador. Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the reliability of the evidence brought against these women, as well as the procedures with which this evidence was collected. For example:
- Were these women made aware of their rights before questioning?
- Were they still suffering from medical trauma, anesthesia or other factors that would undermine their ability to answer questions and present their own defense?
- Were they given access to legal counsel?
- Did these women face discrimination because of their gender and/or socioeconomic status?
[pullquote text=”These women were accused, tried and sentenced in the context of an absolute ban on abortion, which has encouraged authorities to hunt for ‘baby-killers.'”]It is for these reasons that Amnesty International has published an open letter to the Salvadoran Supreme Court of Justice indicating that Salvadoran authorities must ensure the due process rights of these women are upheld when evaluating the local campaign to pardon 17 women convicted of aggravated homicide.
These women were accused, tried and sentenced in the context of an absolute ban on abortion, which has encouraged authorities to hunt for “baby-killers.”
In order to prevent women from being unfairly targeted following medical trauma, Amnesty urges the Salvadoran government to ensure access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, and to decriminalize abortion – at least in cases involving threats to the life or health of the woman or girl, rape or incest, or severe fetal defects.
This letter to the Court is part of Amnesty International’s My Body, My Rights! campaign for sexual and reproductive rights. Please look for Amnesty’s full report on sexual and reproductive rights in El Salvador at the end of September 2014.