Monday, May 5, 2008

Press Release: Atenco Torture Survivors Petition IACHR

Press Release
Mexico City, April 29, 2008

Petition of 11 women from Atenco, victims of torture, before the IACHR

Today 11 women, victims of torture during the events of May 3-4, 2006, in Atenco, have presented a petition, accompanied by the "Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez" Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh) and the International Center for Justice and Law (CEJIL in its Spanish initials), before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) seeking justice and reparations for the damage caused.

The federal, state, and municipal police incursion into San Salvador Atenco on March 3-4, 2006, resulted in human rights violations. Twenty-six of the 47 detained women have denounced having been victims of sexual, physical, or verbal violence by the police that guarded them inside the the vehicles that transported them to the Santiaguito prison.

The Attorney General of the Republic (PGR in its Spanish initials), via the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Related to Violence Against Women (FEVIMTRA in its Spanish initials), headed at that time by Alicia Elena Perez Duarte, initiated an investigation into those who would seem to be responsible for the crimes committed against some women in the Atenco case. Since February 2007, Centro Prodh, a friend of the court in the complaint, verbally and orally requested on multiple occasions that the then-Prosecutor bring charges against the probable perpetrators, something which never occurred despite having all of the necessary prerequisites to do so. Almost two years after the FEVIMTRA initiated the preliminary investigation (FEVIM/03/05/2006), no one has been charged for the torture that the detained women suffered at the hands of public security.

In the State of Mexico a preliminary investigation (TOL/I/466/2006) was incorporated in civil court. Only 21 police were charged, but not for the crime of torture. Rather, they were charged with minor crimes such as abuse of authority or lewd acts. To date, 15 police have already been exonerated and currently only six police officers face charges. Notwithstanding, it's possible that the FEVIMTRA could charge more perpetrators in case 03/05-2006 for the crime of torture of a sexual nature.

On January 25, 2008, a Spanish citizen who suffered serious attacks against her physical integrity and was deported during the previously mentioned operations, filed a criminal complaint with the Spanish National Court. She denounced acts of torture which are susceptible to being recognized by the courts of said country owed to the principle of national jurisdiction which prevails in cases of serious crimes, as sanctioned by international law.

It is troubling that two years after the crimes occurred there are no results and the victims continue waiting for the attention and support guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution. This demonstrates yet again the deficiencies of the Mexican justice system; the governmental entities have proven themselves ineffective with respect to the charging of authorities responsible for the violations of human rights committed in Atenco. Impunity prevails.

The lack of results of the legal processes initiated in the State of Mexico demonstrate that in this state the processes of prosecution and the administration of justice lack impartiality and objectiveness; they remain under the governor's sphere of control. In the federal realm the situation is no different. The investigations initiated by the FEVIMTRA have not resulted in charges despite the fact that the women denouncing the torture have provided sufficient information for this to occur.

Faced with this situation the women who were victims of sexual torture have decided to turn to the IACHR, an autonomous body within the Organization of American States. Cases are presented to the IACHR when the State has not complied with its obligations of internally investigating and punishing the perpetrators of criminal acts.

Today the victims, the Centro Prodh, and CEJIL have presented a petition before the IACHR with the goal of seeking justice and reparations for the victims of this case, charging the Mexican State with failing to meet its obligations before the international community. It should be remembered that the Mexican State is responsible for the actions of its agents. The history of the case is described, along with the complete testimonies of the 11 victims/petitioners and the human rights that are considered violated: the right to physical integrity, the right to personal freedom and security, the right to access to justice, the right to equality and to not be discriminated against, and the right to dignity and privacy. The evidence consists of 20 annexes, including forensic evidence collected as dictated by the Manual for the Efficient Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol) practiced by the National Commission for Human Rights, the Collective Against Torture and Impunity, and the PGR (only two), which returned results that indicated the existence of acts of torture.

Through the international accusation the petitioners want the IACHR to declare that the Mexican State detrimentally violated their human rights, and and that it recommends to the State a serious, impartial, and effective investigation where the perpetrators of torture will be sanctioned, as well as sufficient reparations for the damage.

In Atenco a group identified by the police as "subversive" was systematically tortured: the women weren't only individually abused, but rather, also as a group. They were treated like objects, as spoils of war. Men and women were identified by the state as enemies and not as citizens.

Cases like Atenco also demonstrate the lack of lack of recourse for citizens' participation and for the legitimate expression of discontent. Faced with the the sustained, innovative forms of manifesting popular discontent, the government responds making disproportionate and illegitimate use of force.

The persistent difficulty in accessing justice and the fact that the cases of human rights violations won't be handled with the priority that they require, it becomes necessary to continue searching for paths that make justice possible for the victims.

Communications and Analysis Department of the Centro Prodh
E-mail: comunicacion(at)centroprodh(dot)org(dot)mx
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