URGENT ALERT: MEXICO
Take action against the officials who raided a high security women’s shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua State
On 9 June 2010, fourteen men, six of whom were carrying high-powered weapons, arrived at the secret facilities of Sin Violencia A.C. (“Without Violence”), the only high security shelter in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua State, Mexico, for women at extreme risk of violence. Heading the group was court clerk Román García, who presented a copy of an official letter signed by the First Judge of the Bravos Judicial District Family Court, Lic. Guadalupe Manuel de Santiago Aguayo. The letter authorized the use of force and breaking of locks in order to take immediate custody of a minor girl named in the letter. However, the letter was not addressed to the shelter. Accordingly, the shelter staff refused to allow the men to enter and asked for a search warrant, which the men did not have. The staff also informed the men that the girl was not at the shelter, and further explained that it was not possible to allow them to enter since it was a high-risk shelter where the protocols prohibited the entry of men, especially armed men.
The men threatened to send the shelter staff to prison and one of them, while showing his weapon, told the staff, “I invite you all to cooperate, or I will have no other choice but to act.” Another took the shelter director’s identification card saying that now he had more information about who was opposing them and further threatened, “You all are going to regret this, you’re going to get into trouble, it is better that you cooperate, and we’re going to tear down the doors and break the locks.”
Faced with threats of violence, the shelter staff was obliged to open the doors of the facility. The men entered the shelter violently, throwing furniture around, looking under beds and creating a hostile and terrifying situation for the resident women and children who had previously escaped violent situations in their homes. The men did not find the girl as she was not in the shelter.
Mexico’s General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence, which is applicable in the State of Chihuahua, has been hailed internationally as a landmark law that comprehensively and holistically addresses all forms of violence against women. This law requires all levels of government to encourage the establishment and maintenance of shelters for victims and their children; acknowledges the need to keep the location of such shelters confidential; and stipulates that “shelters shall be safe places for victims, which means their location cannot be provided to persons unauthorized to go there.”
The law also recognizes that public servants may through their acts or omissions perpetrate violence against women and requires the government to “[s]trengthen the criminal and civil framework to ensure punishment for those who engage in harassment or persecution.” Mexico’s national legislation is further supported by its international commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.
The actions of the government officials who stormed the shelter constituted violence against women perpetrated by agents of the state and were in violation of Mexico’s national legislation and international obligations.
Please write to the Head of the Chihuahua State Supreme Court and the Governor of Chihuahua and ask them to take disciplinary action against the state officials involved in the raid on the shelter and to look into the possibility of prosecuting these officials who have so blatantly violated both the letter and the spirit of Mexico’s General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence. Ask them also to ensure that relevant government officials are thoroughly trained in implementing this law and in conducting themselves appropriately towards victims of violence and their defenders. Remind them of their obligations under state, federal and international law to protect the human rights of women. TAKE ACTION!
Letters should go to:
Lic. Rodolfo Acosta Muñoz
Head of the Supreme Court of the State of Chihuahua
Calle Allende No 901.
C.P. 31000, Zona Centro
Tel: +52 614 1 800 700 ext. 12800
Lic. José Reyes Baeza
Governor of the State of Chihuahua
Palacio de Gobierno
Calle Aldama # 901 Col Centro
Fax: +52 614 4 29 34 64
Tel: +52 614 4 29 33 00 ext. 11123
Send a copy to: Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres
Sample letter is on website