Silvia Elena Rivera Morales et. al v. Mexico Case Summaries

Current Status: Cases have been joined and declared admissible by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). RFK and CEDIMAC presented its merits brief on February 2018. The next step, in addition to the hearing on September 27, 2019 is for the IACHR to adopt its report on the merits of the case (where it makes the determination on whether the Mexican government violated the human rights of the victims under the American Convention on Human Rights and other relevant and binding human rights instruments).

Facts: All seven women and girls were victims of femicide between 1995 and 2003 in Ciudad Juárez, and law enforcement’s response to their disappearances and homicides was critically deficient. No one has ever been charged for their murders. Our case alleges that their deaths, the corresponding inaction by the government, and the consequent impunity for the perpetrators constitute violations of the victims’ right to life, freedom from violence, liberty and integrity, judicial protection, and their families’ rights to be free from torture and inhumane treatment.  

Partners: El Centro para el Desarrollo Integral de la Mujer, A.C. (CEDIMAC)

Our Clients:

Brenda Berenice Rodríguez Bermúdez    

Date of Femicide: February 2003

Age at Time of Disappearance: 6

Relatives: Juana Rodríguez Bermúdez (mother)

Brenda disappeared on her way to the corner store on February 10, 2003. Although her mother, Juana, notified the municipal police and the Special Prosecutor for the Investigation of Homicides of Women the next day, neither authority began an investigation. While Brenda was missing, only her family looked for her. On February 19th, 2003, Brenda was found dead; her body showed indications of sexual violence. After the discovery of her body, the State Prosecutor opened a case file, identifying two suspects. One of those suspects was the former partner of Juana, and Juana notified the authorities on several occasions that he could not be the perpetrator. Despite the involvement of five different state agencies, the investigation never progressed: evidence was never analyzed and the second suspect was dismissed, despite compelling evidence of his involvement in Brenda’s murder (detailed knowledge of Brenda’s clothes, his employment at the store near where her body was found).

Cecilia Covarrubias Aguilar and Her Missing Child 

Date of Femicide: November 1995

Age at Time of Disappearance: 14; age of her baby: 24 days

Relatives: Soledad Aguilar Peralta (mother)

Cecilia and her newborn child disappeared on November 14, 1995. When Cecilia’s mother, Soledad Aguilar Peralta, went to the police, she was told that she had to wait 72 hours because her daughter “could have gone with a man that is not her husband.” The authorities did not look for Cecilia, and she was found murdered on November 16th, 1995. Her family was notified by a neighbor who saw Cecilia’s picture in a newspaper, and it was three years before the authorities notified Cecilia’s estranged husband that they had found Cecilia’s body. The Prosecutor never considered the case evidence because it was thrown out due to space issues four years after Cecilia’s death. Additionally, even though Cecilia’s baby was not found with her remains, the police failed to search for her; the only line of investigation opened involved the DNA analysis of a local child, which did not match. The investigation into Cecilia’s death never progressed, and her baby’s whereabouts are still unknown. 

María Elena Chávez Caldera 

Date of Femicide: between June and October 2000    

Age at Time of Disappearance: 17

Relatives: Julia Caldera de Chavez (mother)

María Elena disappeared on June 20th, 2000, and she was found murdered on October 24th, 2000. During those four months, the authorities did not investigate María Elena’s whereabouts. When her body was found, her mother, Julia Caldera de Chavez, could not identify María Elena’s remains because of the condition in which they were found; it took four more years for María Elena’s remains to be delivered to Julia. During those four years, the Mexican authorities (negligently) conducted three DNA tests: the first was negative, the second results were never delivered to Julia, and the third was positive. As a result of these inconsistencies, Julia asked the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team to conduct a fourth DNA test one year after the positive DNA test, which resulted in a positive match. Additionally, the authorities lost evidence and never exhausted the potential lines of investigations or named all suspects. For example, the authorities never named Maria Elena’s employers as suspects, even though they were the last to see her alive.   

Olga Alicia Carrillo Perez

Date of Femicide: September 1995

Age at Time of Disappearance: 20

Relatives: Irma Pérez (mother)

Olga Alicia disappeared on August 10th, 1995, and her mother, Irma Pérez, declared her missing on August 11th, 1995. Her remains were not found until September 9th, 1995. During that time, the authorities did not look for Olga Alicia, nor did they act on the anonymous tips Irma received. Members of the Rebel Gang were considered suspects, and had been implicated in the murders of other women. In February 2006, Irma was told that those men were no longer suspects, and the authorities had no other leads. Although a new investigation was launched in Mary 2006, it was closed after one month. Irma still does not have access to any information about the investigation. 

María Sagrario González Flores

Date of Femicide: April 1998

Age at time of Disappearance: 17

Relatives: Paula Flores Bonilla 

María Sagrario disappeared on April 16th, 1998, and the authorities were negligent at every step of the investigative process. First, when María Sagrario’s mother, Paula Flores Bonilla, notified the police of her daughter’s disappearance on April 16th, the police refused to receive her complaint, stating that María Sagrario “might have gone voluntarily with her boyfriend.” Second, when the State Prosecutor agreed to receive the complaint on the 17th, she transmitted the information of María Sagrario’s disappearance to the police with an incorrect name, calling María Sagrario “María Sagrario González Torres.” The police did not begin to search for her, nor did they notify her family when a body was found that could have been María Sagrario. To prevent the authorities from burying the body in a mass grave, Paula positively identified the body as María Sagrario, but ordered a DNA analysis. Three DNA tests were conducted with varying results: the first test was negative, the second positive, and the third negative, the result of mistakes by the authorities in the exhumation. Paula has asked for another DNA test, but she does not know if it is possible. 

Silvia Elena Rivera Morales  

Date of Femicide: July 1995

Age at time of Disappearance: 17

Relatives: Ramona Morales Huerta (mother)

Silvia Elena disappeared on July 7th, 1995. When her mother, Ramona Morales Huerta, tried to report her missing on July 8th to the State Prosecutor, she was told she had to wait 72 hours because “maybe she just went to dance.” When the authorities finally received the complaint, they only looked for Silvia Elena in the morgues and the hospitals. Her body was found on September 1st, 1995, a month and a half later. The prosecutor first focused on only one suspect, but was never able to get an arrest order. That suspect later died in 2006, at which point the prosecutor re-opened the investigation. In 2009, the prosecutor ordered the arrest of three men, who were already detained for suspected murders of women, including the murder of Olga Alicia Carrillo Pérez. In 2013, however, the prosecutor detained another group of people presumed to be part of a trafficking gang, also accused of murdering Olga Alicia. The prosecutor has failed to produce any probative evidence to substantiate the accusations that this more recent group is responsible for the death of Silvia Elena. 20 years later, Silvia Elena has still not seen justice.