Evelyn Hernández, 21, can be sentenced next Monday in El Salvador to a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison after suffering an out-of-hospital birth in 2016 in which her baby died from rape. After three days of trial, the judge of the Court of Judgment of Cojutepeque announced on Friday that next Monday he will issue the sentence, once the Attorney General's Office has requested a jail sentence of 40 years for the crime of aggravated homicide By default of your newborn.
The events date back to when the young woman was 18 years old and went into labor in El Carmen, a municipality of Cuscatlán in El Salvador. Evelyn had her baby in a septic tank, as a result of which she died. Immediately, the family took her urgently to the Santa Teresa National Hospital in Cojutepeque where she was denounced by the medical staff who attended her and then prosecuted for aggravated homicide.
A study of tissues that was presented at the first trial held on July 5, 2017 revealed that, when born in a septic tank , the baby had aspirated feces from abroad , which caused pneumonia and shortly after his death.
Thus, Evelyn, who lives in a rural area of the country and has limited financial resources, was held 33 months in the women's prison in Ilopango, after she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the aforementioned crime. However, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice annulled the sentence imposed by Judge Nury Velásquez on July 5, 2017 and the trial had to be repeated.
At the gates of the Integrated Justice Center in Ciudad Delgado, hundreds of women have returned to focus this Friday in solidarity with Evelyn and with signs that read 'Freedom, Justice and Reparation' and 'Justice for Evelyn'. They also wore T-shirts with the slogan 'Freedom for 17 and more' in reference to the number of women currently incarcerated in the Central American country accused of aggravated homicide for suffering a delivery outside the hospital in which their babies died. Also, before the Court they have placed a large banner with the photo of Evelyn in which it is recalled that the young woman "became pregnant after suffering sexual violence in the community where she lived."
"The girl is innocent"
Despite the repetition of the trial, which began on July 15, the Prosecutor's Office has continued to maintain its accusation against the young woman, although the organizations that make up Evelyn's technical defense hope that the judge of the Court of Judgment of Cojutepeque will recognize her "innocence", since, in his opinion, the Prosecutor's Office "has no elements to prove intent or intent to cause any harm" to the baby who died. In this regard, they remember that article 7 of the Procedural Code establishes that "when in doubt, the judge must consider the most favorable for the accused." "The young woman is innocent, she did not commit any crime, so we hope she can recover her definitive freedom so she can continue her life project," said the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, the Foundation for Studies on the Application of Law (Fespad) and the collective Las 17 El Salvador.
Thus, in the final allegations, the defense of Evelyn, who is on probation, has asked to be acquitted of the crime of aggravated homicide by pointing out that "there is no evidence to determine homicidal intent." In this sense, Bertha de León, one of the five lawyers of the defendant, has recognized at the court's doors that they are "hopeful" and hope that on Monday there will be an acquittal and Evelyn can continue with her life. On the contrary, the Prosecutor's Office maintains that the girl "was in charge of protecting the life of her baby and did not prevent her death."
Morena Herrera, of the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, assures THE WORLD that Evelyn is "optimistic but knows that there is a risk". Herrera considers positive the international impact of this case in a country where since 1998 abortion is prohibited in all cases, under penalty of imprisonment of six to eight years, which rise to between 30 and 50 years for a crime of aggravated homicide in If it is an out-of-hospital birth, when the pregnancy exceeds 20 weeks and even if it is accidental. "The judge feels observed and is being careful to comply with due process," he emphasizes, while ensuring that these cases like Evelyn's "are health and are not to take women to jail." Along the same lines, the member of the Salvadoran Network of Human Rights Defenders Ana Gladys Chinchilla, who points out to this newspaper that it is a "constant" that the legal system of El Salvador "criminalizes women who have obstetric complications, but expresses not to any woman, but to the woman with very few financial resources and with a low academic level and, therefore, she has very little knowledge of how her anatomical system works during the pregnancy process. " In this way, he claims that Evelyn's case is one of 19 cases "in which women have been criminalized and have gone to jail for crimes they have not committed."
It should be remembered that the Citizen Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion discovered in 2017 that there were 17 women convicted in jail "without strong evidence" after having suffered an outpatient delivery. At that time, the campaign 'Las 17 El Salvador' was launched and then, after reviewing the files, they saw that there were more similar cases. "The problem is that with the misogynistic law and with the misogynistic applicators of Justice that we have no evidence of discharge in El Salvador and the Prosecutor’s Office teaches women, ”explains the human rights defender. Specifically, she details that many of these women“ have been convicted with the testimony of doctors who received them with heavy hemorrhages in hospitals where their relatives have taken them after finding them fainted or in 'shock' postpartum. "Thus, Chinchilla criticizes that " these women go to jail from the hospital, because, when making the diagnosis, doctors say they have suffered an abortion and are initially prosecuted for that crime, but then the classification is changed for that of aggravated homicide and they are sentenced to between 30 and 50 years. "
This whole situation, he says, only affects "poor women who are being convicted and who never sought to terminate their pregnancy", while "a woman who has high incomes and belongs to a powerful economic family can go to terminate her pregnancy in another country and nothing happens. "
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