A court in Santa Fe has overturned the conviction against the man responsible for the murder of Chiara Páez, the pregnant 14-year-old who was murdered in 2015 and whose femicide inspired the first 'Ni una menos' march against gender violence.
Court sources confirmed to the AFP news agency on Friday that the Supreme Court of Santa Fe Province had overturned a sentence of 21 years and six months in prison imposed on Manuel Mansilla, the victim's boyfriend and confessed perpetrator of the crime, while ordering him to be retried.
The court found that the jail term imposed on Mansilla – who was 17 years old when he committed the crime – is unconstitutional, given it applies to sentencing guidelines for adults convicted of manslaughter or murder. Mansilla, who was tried as a minor, is likely to enjoy a reduction in his sentence nevertheless, most likely to a term of between 10 and 15 years behind bars, as a result.
Páez was eight weeks pregnant when she was beaten to death in Rufino, Santa Fe Province in May 2015. Her body was eventually found buried in the backyard of the home of Mansilla's grandparents, inside an external shallow well. The earth on top of it had been raked recently and tamped down.
A post-mortem examination carried out on the 14-year-old's body showed she died from beatings to the head, face and body. Investigators also found traces of a drug commonly used in clandestine abortions, fuelling speculation that her killing could have been the result of an argument with her boyfriend over her pregnancy.
The youngster's murder shocked the nation and prompted a rallying call on social networks that helped create the Ni Una Menos ("Not one less") feminist movement. Since 2015, massive annual marches have taken place every June 3 in Argentina denouncing femicide and gender violence against women and girls. The movement has since spread to other countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia.
In 2021 there were 256 femicides in Argentina, according to data compiled by the Ahora Que Sí Nos Ven gender violence observatory. Of the fatal victims, 42 had previously filed complaints against their aggressors and 24 had judicial protection measures in place, such as panic buttons or restrictions on approach, the NGO found.
Speaking over the weekend, the victim's mother, Verónica Camargo, said she was outraged by the court's decision. Argentina "has a judicial system that always sides with the criminals," she said in an interview with the TN news channel. "It is crazy and barbaric," said Camargo, adding that she had found out about the ruling via the press and not directly from the court.
Fabio Páez, Chiara's father, said on Radio Nacional Rosario that the decision "causes a lot of sadness."