Year: 2013 (Date of Decisions (in the order cited above): 3 April 2013; 12 April 2013; 10 May 2013; 31 May 2013)
Forum, Country: Children’s and Juvenile Court; Guatemala
Standards, Rights: Best interests of the child; Core content; Right to adequate food; Right to life; Right to an adequate standard of living; Right to health; Right to housing; Children
Summary Background: The poverty level in the municipality of Camotán in the Guatemalan Department of Chiquimula has chronically been very high and was worsened in 2001 and 2002 as a result of a food crisis, caused by a drought and the effects of a drop in the international price of coffee on the rural economy. The production of coffee was the single most important base for subsistence of the local population. The food crisis generated severe malnutrition and increased child mortality, especially affecting children under 5. Despite the existence of some local government policies to eradicate the famine in the region, the overall situation remained unchanged, which left children of the municipality vulnerable. In November 2011, this led the parents of the girls, Dina Marilú, Mavélita Lucila Interiano Amador and Mayra Amador Raymundo; and the boys Brayan René, Espino Ramírez and Leonel Amador García, supported by the civil society Guatemala Without Hunger Campaign, to file a case in accordance with article 104 of the Law for Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents, which seeks to examine and settle complaints arising from situations that threaten or violate the rights of children and adolescents. The legal proceedings initiated against the State of Guatemala alleged that the State violated through omission the right to food, the rights to life, health, education, and an adequate standard of living and housing, of the children suffering from acute malnutrition in the municipality.
Holding: The Department of Zacapa Court for the Protection of Children and Adolescents and for adolescents in conflict with the criminal law based its legal analysis on national and international law. In particular, the analysis focused on the principle of the best interests of the child as a person with full legal personality, and on the obligation of the State to implement measures and mechanisms to ensure the effective fulfilment of ESC rights.
The Court contemplated the facts in the light of the State’s duties under international instruments, including the ICESCR and the ICRC, to which the State is a party and that guarantee the right to be free from hunger, and the right to adequate food as a fundamental basis for the enjoyment of other human rights [para. C, Análisis de las disposiciones legales correspondientes].
Based on the facts and arguments described above, the Court for Children and Adolescents and the Court for Adolescents in Conflict with Criminal Law of the Department of Zacapa found a violation of the rights to food, life, an adequate standard of living, health and housing of the children parties to the cases and the responsibility of the State of Guatemala for such violations through omission, as it failed to provide effective programs, policies, actions and measures to address the children’s poor health caused by the chronic and acute undernourishment and the lack of adequate food [para. C, Parte resolutiva, I].
In addition, the Court ordered the enforcement of various measures for a comprehensive reparation for the physical, social and psychological damages suffered by the children. These short and longer-term measures included the implementation of policies that guarantee the enjoyment of the right to food, health and adequate housing for the whole family. In particular, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food must deliver food aid to the families of the affected children; and provide seeds and necessary technical support to allow the families to grow adequate food.
In addition, the Court ordered the implementation of various programs such as in the area of health, psychological care and education, which shall enable the development of children in their family environment [para. C, Parte resolutiva, II]
Additional Comments: The expert opinions and reports especially from medical specialists working on child malnutrition, as well as the active support of civil society organizations and a broader social mobilization played a determining role in achieving the decision based on international human rights law standards.