Open letter to the Members of the European Parliament

12/07/2007
Press release

Re :
Report of M. Raúl Romeva on Feminicides in Mexico,
Assessment of the Mexican government’s performance in combating feminicide

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

On the occasion of your examination of the report of M. Raúl Romeva (Greens/EFA, ES) the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) wishes to convey to you its appreciation of the evolution of the situation with regard to violent killings and unsolved disappearances of women, or "feminicide", in Mexico, in particular with regard to the actions undertaken by Mexican authorities to cope with this issue.

Since 1993, more than 400 women have been violently murdered and there have been over 4,000 registered complaints of women having disappeared in the cities of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua in Northern Mexico [1] . But the phenomenon is not limited to this part of Mexico.

The relative number of initiatives that have been launched in order to prevent feminicide responded to a large extent to the international pressure. The foreign press has, indeed, taken up this devastating issue much more frequently than its Mexican counterparts have. In April 2004, Le Monde published a confidential UN report denouncing possible police collusion and nexuses with drug trafficking in the disappearances and murders [2] . Likewise, while acknowledging that the task should belong to the Mexican authorities, Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzón nonetheless considered that these murders had reached the point of a "crime against humanity". Eventually, the United Nations rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, who examined the case of the dead women of Ciudad Juarez in 2004, concluded that the Mexican government had created a sense of insecurity among the women of Ciudad Juarez by failing to protect the lives of its citizens [3] .

However, such initiatives have not succeeded in providing the victims with justice or in sentencing those responsible. In fact, the inadequacy of the means employed, the essential need for coordination between the three levels of the Civil Service (federal, state and municipal) and the obvious lack of goodwill of the judiciary added to a hardly concealed corruption, jeopardize the efforts led by human rights defenders in Mexico and the hopes of victims’ families.

On the contrary, the few individuals who have committed themselves to supporting the victims and eradicating the feminicide still have to face death threats and finally share the terror with the victims they defend [4] . A situation which remains extremely worriesome.

For the purposes of this analysis on the advancement of Mexican responses to the situation, and in accordance with the requirements of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights (IACHR), four main spheres of activity may be apprehended. Namely investigation, sanction, reparation and prevention.

Investigation and reparation

From a normative standpoint, great efforts have been made at the national level. For instance, the Mexican Congress recently approved the General Act on the Access of Women to a Non-Violent Life (Ley General de Acceso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia) on February 2007, thereby echoing the urgent recommendations issued by human rights organizations.

Nevertheless, this act has still not been finally adopted at the federate level, nor were other rules on violence and rights of women in Mexico. The laws and entities, which are necessary for the global implementation of the so-called feminicide legislation, are to a large extent still missing. Likewise, some reforms that were led on the judiciary in the State of Chihuahua do not consider all the aspects of violence against women, but only family violence.

Two important entities were set up with a view to framing the struggle against feminicide: the Commission for the Prevention and the Eradication of Violence against Women in Ciudad Juarez (Comisión para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia contra las Mujeres en Ciudad Juárez), as part of the Government Secretariat, and the Special Tribunal for Crimes Related to the Murders of Women in Ciudad Juarez (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Relacionados con los Homicidios de Mujeres en el Municipio de Juárez) under the authority of the State Prosecutor.

The jurisdiction that was recognized to these two bodies allowed them, however, to reach only very limited results. In fact, had both organs been legally enabled with proper attributions, they would have succeeded in guarantying the victims true access to justice and providing them with effective reparation responses. On the contrary, their actual work is restricted to the mere authentication of facts without further investigations.

Sanction

A general climate of impunity pervades the feminicide. The low number of alleged criminals who incur a conviction casts serious doubts on the goodwill of the judiciary, all the more so as most of them confessed false crimes under torture. On the other hand, the hundred or so civil servants whose responsibilities were established for inaction have still not been subject to any legal proceedings.

Prevention

In addition, the compiling of studies and statistical data paves the way for a better comprehension of the phenomenon of violence against women in Mexico. If the feminicide remains an extreme illustration of human rights violations in Central America, this phenomenon gradually turns into a true social issue whose causes need to be systematically studied, all the more so as the number of families concerned with disappearances keeps on raising.

It can, therefore, be regretted that the official figures are not approved unanimously. Disputes on these statistics, in particular between the Commission and the Special Tribunal, are mainly accounted for by the fact that no details are supplied on the age or the social background, among other characteristics, of the victims. As a result, the official statistics are short of both quantitative and qualitative indicators. Yet, such data are essential when the evaluation of all the mechanisms created on this issue is at stake.

Eventually, regarding the various campaigns that were launched in a prevention perspective through approaching workers in the maquiladoras [5] , their impact will be tangible only when they are inserted in a framework that juts out, first, above the state level, and second, over the 6 years of one President’s mandate. In order to succeed, youth awareness and consciousness-raising campaigns must be shaped by local authorities and scheduled on a long-term basis.

On balance, despite all the efforts that might have been made by Mexican State authorities towards the eradication of violence against women, there is still a long way to go, taking into account that Mexico does not seem skilled and equipped enough to solve the problem by itself. Authorities fail to investigate crimes adequately and the root causes of the violence against women are not studied. Impunity is leading to loss of confidence in the judicial system. Perpetrators are not brought to justice whereas victims are treated as delinquents, and their defenders remain victims of death threats and harrassment.

In view of the nature of the European Union relations with Mexico and Central America and the commitment of all parties to full respect of human rights, it is important that the European Parliament’s assessment of this situation be proper. MEP Raúl Romeva’s report provides the required qualitative assessment and should thus be supported.

In adopting it, the European Parliament could send an important signal to the Mexican authorities stating that behind the first legislative and institutionnal responses to the crisis, the situation remains particularly preoccupying

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