Court/Judicial body: District Court of Cochabamba
Date: 20 May 2011 CRC
Provisions: Article 3: Best interests of the child
Other international provisions:International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 24Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 3, 9American Convention on Human Rights, Article 7
Domestic provisions: Bolivian Constitution, Articles 60, 61, 125
Background: C.J. Gabriel Huanca, a child, was struck by a vehicle near her home and suffered serious injuries. C.J. was admitted at the “German Urquidi” Children’s Hospital, where she was treated, but her parents could not afford to pay their daughter’s hospital fees. In light of the parents’ inability to pay, the hospital refused to release the child, stating that she would continue to be detained until her parents paid the fees in full. The parents then sued the manager of the hospital on behalf of their daughter to demand C.J.’s release.
Issue and resolution: Health care; detention. The Court found that the girl had been unlawfully detained in the hospital as a means of securing payment for her medical fees. The Court ruled that this detention violated the child’s rights and ordered the hospital to release her immediately, regardless of the status of her medical fees.
Court reasoning: The Court found that the hospital was end to collect payment for the medical services rendered. However, the Court also established that pursuant to the Constitution and other applicable national and international legal provisions, it is unlawful to restrict anyone’s liberty as a means of securing the payment of a debt. The Court emphasised that, as here, holding a person as security for payment due is particularly egregious when the detaining party is not a competent governmental authority.
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights as in full-text Spanish decision: I.1.2. Derechos y garantía supuestamente vulnerados Los accionantes, estiman vulnerados los derechos a la libertad física y al de locomoción de su representada, citando al efecto los arts. 60 y 61 de la Constitución Política del Estado (CPE); 7 inc. 7) y 19 del Pacto de San José de Costa Rica; 24 del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos; y, 3.1 y 3.2 de la Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño. … III.1.Sobre el ámbito de protección de la acción de libertad en los centros hospitalarios públicos y privados Antes de desarrollar la argumentación jurídica conveniente al caso concreto, respecto a la retención de pacientes en los hospitales o clínicas, cuando éstos son dados de alta, por el incumplimiento en el pago de las cuentas por concepto de atención médica, vulnerando sus derechos a la libertad física y de locomoción, previamente, es imperante referirse a la uniforme jurisprudencia que este Tribunal Constitucional ha desarrollado a partir de la SC 0074/2010-R de 3 de mayo: “La actual Constitución Política del Estado, nos permite diferenciar derechos fundamentales, garantías jurisdiccionales y acciones de defensa. Para dilucidar la problemática planteada, es necesario referir que el art. 23.I de la CPE, garantiza el derecho fundamental a la libertad, el mismo se halla refrendado por los arts. 3 y 9 de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos (DUDH), instrumento que forma parte del bloque de constitucionalidad, también recogido por el art. 7.I de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos (Pacto de San José de Costa Rica). En este marco, se determina que la acción de libertad reconocida por la Constitución, es un mecanismo idóneo para la protección efectiva de derechos fundamentales vinculados entre otros a la libertad.
CRIN English translation: I.1.2. Rights and guarantees allegedly violated The plaintiffs consider violated the right to personal liberty and the right to freedom of movement of their representee [the child], citing to that effect articles 60 and 61 of the country’s Constitution; articles 7 (paragraph 7) and 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights; Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and Article 3.1 and 3.2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. … III.1.Concerning the sphere of protection of the legal action for liberty in private and state hospitals Before developing the legal argument appropriate for the case in question, regarding the holding of patients in hospitals or clinics, despite having been discharged, for failing to pay in full the bill for medical care received, which violates their right to personal liberty and right to freedom of movement, it is first necessary to refer to the uniform jurisprudence of this Constitutional Court since the ruling SC 0074/2010-R of 3rd May: The current Constitution of Bolivia allows us to differentiate between fundamental rights, jurisdictional guarantees and actions of defence. To elucidate the concerns raised it is necessary to establish that Article 23.I of the Constitution of Bolivia guarantees the fundamental right to liberty. This same Article is endorsed by articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an instrument that is part of the constitutionality block; as well as Article 7.I of the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica). Within this framework, this court establishes that the right to liberty recognised by the Constitution is a mechanism appropriate for the effective protection of the fundamental rights related to liberty, among others.
CRIN comments: CRIN believes this decision is consistent with the CRC. As noted by the court, children should never be detained as a way to secure the payment of a debt, especially by a private institution.
Citation: Constitutional resolution 0733/2011-R, File No. 2009-21028-43-AL
Link to full judgement: http://www.tribunalconstitucional.gob.bo/gpwtc.php?name=consultas&file=print&palabra=&id=22623