In Lima, Peru, on Thursday 15 April 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held a public hearing of the claims made by indigenous Me’phaa woman, Inés Fernández Ortega, against the Mexican State. Mrs. Fernández alleges that she suffered torture and sexual assault at the hands of military personnel in 2002. Her lawyers from Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre argued that Inés Fernández’s experience highlights the recurring issues in Mexico, such as the lack of access to justice for women victims of violence; violations caused by the increasing absence of civilian monitoring of the Armed Forces; and the persecution facing those who organise to defend the rights of indigenous peoples. The State repeatedly refused to acknowledge that members of the Armed Forces had raped Inés Fernández, although in the course of the hearing, it did recognise that it had conducted an inadequate investigation into the matter. PBI has provided accompaniment to both the Organisation of the Indigenous Me’phaa People (since 2005) and Inés Fernández, as well as the members of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre since 2003. A PBI Mexico representative attended the hearing in Peru, and conducted this interview with Inés Fernández's lawyers from Tlachinollan afterwards.
PBI: What did you think of the hearing?
Vidulfo Rosales (lawyer): We think it was important. It was a space in which Inés could speak to, not directly but via video link-up, the judges of the Court to ask for justice. It was clear that the existence of the rape itself had been sufficiently proven. The expert evidence provided was solid. The experts were able to show the personal impact caused by the rape, how Inés’s life had been destroyed by it, how it has affected her family. In addition, the expert anthropological evidence showed that the rape was not isolated in the community context, and that it is all part of a repressive pattern. This was what the expert Aída Hernández showed: that is a pattern going back to 1998, part of a chain of violent events like the Charco massacre, and part of an ongoing timeline of events that was demonstrated in 2002 by Inés’s rape. This continues with the repressive acts in response to the ongoing complaints against military presence in the area. The judges’ concern for the impact on Inés and her daughters, and for the aspect of militarisation, was also clearly expressed. Certain questions were asked of the Mexican State in regard to the regulatory framework that allows the military to conduct tasks related to investigations, and I understand that the State could not answer that question. There is convincing evidence to show that the rape occurred, and that State representatives perpetrated it.
What is the importance of this case in relation to the current context in Mexico?
Abel Barrera (director): Firstly, [it is important] because any discussion about the Army has been banned by the Mexican State in the sense thatit does not want its behaviour as a body which violates human rights to be brought into question. And, unfortunately, what has happened with the militarisation in the fight against drug trafficking is that the Army is now the main perpetrator of human rights violations in Mexico. This is shown in the figures provided by the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos) and, in Guerrero, by the State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos). The most serious factor is that there is no monitoring, either in the legal or the institutional spheres, of a force which really is not used to treating citizens according to their rights. It is therefore very worrying, because [militarisation] is a strategy appropriate only for war that is worsening the lives of Mexican citizens. It is occurring within a context where the institutions meant to implement justice have collapsed from corruption and the inefficacy of their investigations. We see how these institutions are withering, and they [the government] want to strengthen the political system by force. The only result is that the conflict is overflowing and that innocent blood continues to flow, shed by people who have nothing to do with this war. <media 6152>Download the entire interview (pdf)</media>.
More PBI Interviews with members of the OPIM :
The audience in the case of Valentina Rosendo Cantú will take place on the 27th and 28th of May. See : <media 5977>Entrevista 13: Valentina Rosendo Cantú before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights (january 2010)</media>
<media 3850>Entrevista 12 Raul Hernández, prisoner of conscience (December 2009)</media>
<media 3851>Entrevista 10 Cuauhtémoc Ramirez, secretary of the OPIM (December 2009)</media>
See Also the Project Bulletin May 2009 :
<media 2578>Silenced: Violence against Human Rights Defenders in the South of Mexico</media>