Friday, January 9, 2009

Mexican Defense Department is Silent About the Case of a Pregnant Woman Murdered at a Military Checkpoint

The Federal Attorney General's Office didn't take on the case even though it involves the death of a civilian, which is a violation of Plan Mexico's "human rights conditions"

published in La Jornada, January 8, 2009
translated by Kristin Bricker

Translator's note: The case of the pregnant woman murdered by soldiers is being investigated by the military's attorney general, not a civilian one. 15% of US military and police aid to Mexico under the Merida Iniciative is conditioned on Mexico sending cases regarding military abuse of civilians to civilian courts. The 15% has yet to be released due to Mexico's continued failure to comply with even these minimal conditions.

The Military Attorney General's Office is investigating soldiers in the 11th Military Region, the 5th Military Zone, and the 23rd infantry batalion regarding the death of civilian Sayra Guadalupe Arzate Contreras, who this past December 12 was shot in a military checkpoint located in Aldama, Chihuahua, while she was four months pregnant.

According to official information, in mid-December the [government-funded but theoretically independent human rights ombudsman] National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received information from the National Defense Department's Human Rights General Management office* about the complaint registered with the national ombudsman regarding the incident, in which a soldier is accused of having murdered a woman when, accompanied by her mother and an aunt, she headed towards the checkpoint in search of help because they were being chased by criminals.

Following the incident, the military attorney general began the criminal investigation 5ZM/47/2008, but it is still unknown how many soldiers have been interrogated, or if any soldiers have already been indicted in the case.

The National Defense Department (Sedena in its Spanish abbreviation) has limited itself to stating that because the investigation is in progress, information regarding the case is "confidential," and it cannot provide more details.

Beyond the complaint filed with the CNDH and the Commission's request to Sedena for information, neither the Chihuahua State Attorney General's Office nor the Federal Attorney General's Office have made public any intention to look into the case.

This is the case despite the fact that, because it involves the murder of a civilian at the hands of soldiers, it should investigated by civilian officials. It's worth mentioning that since 2003, the UN's Torture Committee has been very clear in continuously recommending restricting the military's jurisdiction to crimes that are related to military discipline and that those that involve civilians be sent to civilian courts.

It's also worth point out that, according to Sedena, the incident was the result of an attack on soldiers by men who were traveling in multiple vehicles, and that after firing towards the checkpoint they fled when faced with the soldiers' response.

Translator's Notes:

* The National Defense Department's Human Rights General Management office is slated to receive zero funding in the 2009 budget. The military's Human Rights General Management office reviews human rights complaints against the military and the CNDH's recommendations regarding these complaints. Even with funding, the military's human rights department rarely acts upon CNDH recommendations.

First published in Narco News:

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