Merits Brief Submitted in Ciudad Juárez Femicides Case

Working in partnership with CEDIMAC – an organization dedicated to supporting victims of gender-based violence and their families in Ciudad Juarez- we represent six women murdered and one child disappeared in Ciudad Juárez, and their families, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a case titled Silvia Elena Rivera Morales y otras v. Mexico. These six women were murdered because they are women- simply put, qualifying their deaths as femicides (or the murder of women due to their gender). Not a single one of their deaths has been brought to justice, nor has the missing girl been found, despite over 20 years of advocacy by the victims’ families.

It is clear from both the heinous facts of the women’s murders and the government’s lack of response that Mexico should be held responsible for: (a) failing to prevent their deaths and (b) for failing to ensure that their murderers were held to account. On February 9, we submitted our merits brief to the IACHR.

This case is particularly important because there exists explicit legal precedent to find México in violation of the victims’ and their families’ human rights. In 2009, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights decided the landmark Campo Algodonero (“Cotton Field”) case, in which the Court called on Mexico to implement specific reforms to prevent the horrific practice of femicide and to combat the impunity that was enjoyed by its perpetrators. The facts of Campo Algodonero are remarkably similar to the facts in our case: the victims were young women murdered in the 1990s in Ciudad Juarez at a time when the high rates of disappearances and femicide were well-documented and understood by the government.

Our clients were victims of the same context of violence, killed around the same time and in similar circumstances. More importantly, their families have suffered the same inaction and failures by the authorities as condemned in Campo Algodonero. And yet, Campo Algodonero was decided in 2009, and our clients have still not achieved justice, demonstrating the lack of progress made by the Mexican government.

This culture of impunity perpetuates the patterns of violence in Ciudad Juárez – and Mexico more broadly – as evidenced by the other petitions that we have filed before the Inter-American Commission, including: the extrajudicial killing of an indigenous man in the state of Guerrero, the disappearance of seven women in Ciudad Juarez.

When the government fails to respond effectively to violence targeted at women, it insulates those responsible, conveying its condonation for the larger culture of gender-based discrimination and fueling widespread violence. If the Court’s Campo Algodonero decision had been implemented faithfully, the suffering of these victims’ families could have been avoided and the perpetual cycles of violence interrupted.

Given the systemic impunity characteristic of México’s domestic legal system, the IACHR must play a critical role in protecting the rights of the victims and their families, and in demanding reform. In evaluating our case, the Inter-American Commission should measure Mexico’s non-compliance with the recommendations and reparations ordered by the Inter-American Court in Campo Algodonero. It should also recognize the heightened levels of violence in México today, which are cause for greater concern and more stringent demands on the State of Mexico: 2017 was the most dangerous year in México during the last 2 decades. Mexico must be held accountable for its role in failing to prevent violence against women, and even more so, for perpetuating it.