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Belén's story, Paraguay

February 20, 2023
Deceptive Design
February 20, 2023
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Web Foundation and TEDIC, a member of the Women's Rights Online (WRO) network

Belén's story is one of countless examples of OGBV and the lack of access to justice for survivors. It is a tale of a system that failed to protect her and left her feeling hopeless and scared. The events that took place in Belén's case are shocking and highlight the need for change in Paraguay's justice system. Despite having offered proof of the abuse she suffered, her offers were denied, and she was even faced with an arrest warrant. Belén's story is a stark reminder of the importance of human rights and access to justice, and the consequences when these rights are not protected.

Belén Whittingslow was once a student at the Catholic University of Asunción, Paraguay. However, what should have been a time of growth and learning turned into a nightmare when she alleged that she was sexually harassed by her professor, Cristian Kriskovich. She claimed that during her time as a student of Cristian Kriskovich, he sexually harassed her through messages and images sent through WhatsApp. Despite having ordered a report and investigation of the mobile phones - the case's main evidence supporting Belén's claim - the investigation ceased and the case was dismissed after documentation on behalf of the defense of Mr. Kriskovich was presented to the prosecutor. 

Rejection by the courts

Such decision was ratified by the deputy prosecutor, who considered that the actions of Mr. Kriskovich did not constitute sexual harassment, categorizing it as "romancing and courtship" in a contra legem resolution. This is how, in this process, the Public Ministry completely rejected Belén's responses clearly indicating her opposition and rejection of the type of exchanges tainted with gender bias and the clear avoidance of the analysis of the position of power held by Mr. Kriskovich. 

The case against Belén

After the cases' dismissal, Belén was involved in two legal proceedings against her, which continue to date. Belén was accused of being part of a criminal case investigated at her university regarding the "production of non-authentic documentation" and as defendant in the civil sphere where she was sued by Mr. Kriskovich for compensation for damages in which he claims the payment of $450,000. In both legal processes, Belén has offered the reports of mobile phones as proof of the alleged sexual harassment and the connection with the subsequent processes. This offer was denied in both cases. Within the former case presented (involving the alleged "production of non-authentic documentation") a resolution has been issued declaring Belén's rebellion, ordering her capture, and canceling her defense, and ordering the removal of her lawyers from the computer system granting access to files, without any legal grounds. An unconstitutionality action was presented before the aforementioned actions, which has not been resolved to date.

Forced to flee

Faced with the fear caused by the inconsistency of the justice system in Paraguay, the possibility of an arrest, and her vulnerable position, Belén is now in Uruguay where she has submitted a refugee status request. Her wish is not to evade the proceedings against her, but to have the necessary guarantees that she will be able to have an oral trial with full access to her legal defense and full compliance of her human rights. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has become aware of Belén's case in 2019. This has been possible through a joint action between TEDIC, CEJIL and Belén's family who have sent a Letter Article 41 requesting information from Paraguay on the measures adopted within her case.

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