San José, Costa Rica, and Mexico City, May 3, 2020. Today marks fourteen years since the events of social repression, massive arbitrary detentions, and systematic use of torture – including sexual torture – by state and federal police forces in Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco, State of Mexico, Mexico, without substantial progress in access to justice or the implementation of the measures of non-repetition ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) in its 2018 judgment in the case.
The Atenco case, and many others documented since then, demonstrate the persistence of widespread practices of sexual torture of women; imprisonment of innocent people; and the lack of investigation of serious human rights violations in Mexico. Transforming this devastating reality with structural measures is fundamental if Mexico is to consolidate itself as a democratic State by breaking with the practices of human rights violations of the past that have allowed impunity.
However, more than 16 months after the notification of the IACtHR’s judgment on the case, Women Victims of Sexual Torture in Atenco v. Mexico, there are no concrete results in the criminal investigation and the most relevant measures ordered to guarantee the non-repetition of the facts remain unfulfilled.
In this respect, although there is a new investigation by the National Attorney General’s Office (“Fiscalía General de la República,” or FGR by its Spanish acronym), the investigation within the local prosecutor’s office of the State of Mexico, whose serious deficiencies were exposed in the judgment delivered by the IACtHR for being incompatible with international standards for the investigation of cases of torture, is still open.
In addition to the investigation of those responsible for the events that occurred, the IACtHR ordered Mexico, among other measures of reparation: (1) to strengthen the Inter-institutional Mechanism against Sexual Torture of Women, coordinated by the National Commission for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia contra las Mujeres,” or CONAVIM by its Spanish acronym); and (2) to create an Independent Observatory to monitor the use of force and accountability of the police forces at the federal and Mexico State levels.
With regard to the Mechanism against Sexual Torture, the women plaintiffs and their representatives participated for months in meetings with Mexican authorities, providing proposals and input for the route to strengthen the mechanism. However, that process has been de facto suspended since October 2019, when the relevant institutions reported that they had to review the proposal that had been drawn up. To date, the authoritieshave not reactivated this process to advance the proposal.
With respect to the creation of the Independent Observatory, the government has not taken any action to comply with the judgement since it was notified of the ruling in December 2018. The litigating organizations have also provided inputs to promote this measure, but without results.
While in Mexico, as in the rest of the world, we are experiencing a health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we consider that the delay in compliance with these two reparations measures is not due to this emergency. On the contrary, the Mexican government had the opportunity to advance with the proposals of these mechanisms during many months, and did not do so. According to the Court’s judgement, the government has a two-year deadline for compliance with these reparations; however, prolonged delays threaten the possibility for the government to comply within the timeframe set by the IACtHR.
As has happened since the events of fourteen years ago, it is the women survivors themselves who have built paths to justice for other victims of torture, social repression, and unjust imprisonment, founding the national campaign Breaking the Silence and accompanying various individuals, collectives, and communities. The release of several women who are members of the campaign both confirms that their cases were examples of arbitrary detentions and false accusations, and shows the impact that the women of Atenco have had in combating state violence based a logic of solidarity, organization, and public communication.
In light of the women’s long and constant struggle and the existence of an international judgment against the government, it would be unacceptable for Mexico not to comply with the measures of non-repetition – designed to prevent acts of torture and repression – ordered by the IACtHR.
Therefore, this anniversary of the case constitutes a call for the government to comply with these fundamental measures within the timeframe established in the judgment.
Narce Santibañez Alejandre
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Center Prodh)