Transforming pain and wounds in the search for justice: the case of Linda Loaiza

March 27 / 2021


On March 27, Linda Loaiza López Soto’s struggle as a survivor of gender violence and a victim of multiple human rights violations by the Venezuelan State is commemorated. Her experience narrates how she transformed the pain and wounds of the violence she lived, exercised both by her aggressor and by the institutions that denied her the access to justice, into a tireless and admirable struggle in the defense of women rights.

Twenty years ago, Linda was unlawfully deprived of her liberty by Luis Carrera Almoina. She was 18 years old, had recently enrolled in college, and lived with her sister. She was kidnapped when leaving her house and subjected by her aggressor to torture, ill-treatment, and rape for almost four months. Although her sister reported Linda’s absence on multiple occasions, authorities did not investigate her disappearance.

The physical, psychological, and sexual violence that Linda Loaiza faced had a profound and permanent impact on her life. This violence did not stop upon her release but continued during her search for justice. Throughout the judicial process, Linda experienced a permanent revictimization derived from irregularities in the investigation, unjustified delays, and the use of gender stereotypes by the authorities.

After years of demanding justice before the courts, even after going on a hunger strike, she achieved a conviction against her aggressor during a second trial. However, the conviction was for unlawful deprivation of liberty and very serious injuries, ignoring the violations and torture she experienced during her captivity.

Linda Loaiza took her case to the Inter-American System because impunity persisted concerning the sexual violence she was a victim of. In her statement before the Inter-American Commission, she indicated that she was resorting to an international protection system, hoping that, unlike what she experienced in Venezuela, "no social, economic or political privileges will prevail", and requested that the case be raised before the Inter-American Court to gain access to guarantees of non-repetition for women victims of violence.

The process before the Inter-American System culminated in the Inter-American Court with a judgment against the Venezuelan State, in which the State was declared responsible of violating her rights because of its lack of due diligence in preventing and investigating her kidnapping. This ruling was the first to set a precedent on gender violence in Venezuela and established the State’s responsibility for acts committed by a non-state actor because the Venezuelan authorities failed to prevent, investigate, or punish the torture and sexual slavery to which Linda was subjected.

In the judgment of the case, the Court noted that “judicial inefficiency in individual cases of violence against women fosters an environment of impunity that facilitates the repetition of acts of violence in general and sends a message according to which violence against women can be tolerated or accepted”. Also, the ruling established important precedents on the elements of sexual slavery as a manifestation of discrimination against women.

In a context of widespread violence against women in the continent, aggravated during the pandemic, Linda's case becomes relevant due to its potential to impact the situation of a large number of women victims of violence, both in Venezuela and in the rest of the world.

Today, Linda Loaiza is a lawyer and activist dedicated to the defense of women's rights. Her case is a fundamental reference in the fight against gender violence in Latin America. In addition, her story has also prompted other victims of the same aggressor, Luis Carrera Almoina, to report the facts.

The book Double crime: torture, sexual slavery and impunity, co-written with Venezuelan women's rights activist Luisa Kislinger, chronicles Linda's journey from the day when the events occurred to the present. To date, the Venezuelan State has not complied with any of the reparations ordered in the judgment of the Inter-American Court. However, the book highlights the value of Linda Loaiza's case reaching an international court, since “she managed to be heard, believed, and condemned to that system that abandoned her, revictimized her and failed her and to so many women victims of violence before and after her case”.

Commemorating Linda's struggle is to make her courage visible. Despite all the obstacles she faced, her effort is not in vain. This case serves as a reminder to reject violence against women, recognizing that as a society, there is much work left to be done. She has been the voice of many women and the hope that it is possible, as the anthropologist and feminist activist Rita Segato would say, to prevent all ideals and preconceptions of violence from being uninstalled, since the human being “can evaluate them, make an ethical judgment on them and disapprove”.