Doc. 44
7 march 2003
Original:  Spanish




A.     Overview of the issues to be addressed 

B.     The Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women of the IACHR and its mandate 

C.     The on-site visit to Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City of February, 2002

D.     Subsequent activities of the Special Rapporteurship and the IACHR to address the situation 

E.     The scope of the present report, its approval and follow-up


A.     Introduction

B.     The context of Ciudad Juárez

C.     An overview of the violence that affects women in Ciudad Juárez

D.     Threats against those involved in search for justice

E.     The response of the Mexican State to violence against women in Ciudad Juárez


            A.      International law 

            B.      National law 

            C.      Role of national entities


A.        General considerations

B.        The obligation of the Mexican State to apply due diligence to respond to such violence when it occurs so as to ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of those responsible

C.        The obligation of the Mexican State to apply due diligence to prevent such violence





A.        Overview of the issues to be addressed

          1.          This report addresses the right of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to be free from violence and discrimination.  It reports on the grave situation of violence faced by the women and girls of Ciudad Juárez, including murder and disappearance, as well as sexual and domestic violence, and offers recommendations designed to assist the United Mexican States (“State” or “Mexican State”) in amplifying its efforts to respect and ensure those rights. 

2.          The impetus for this report and the on-site visit that preceded it was a series of communications directed to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women (“Special Rapporteur”) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“Commission” or “IACHR”) in late 2001, signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals.  They reported that more than two hundred women had been brutally murdered in Ciudad Juárez since 1993, complained of the inefficacy of law enforcement, and requested that the Special Rapporteur visit Mexico to examine the situation.  In response to the concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur in this regard, the Government of President Vicente Fox extended the invitation to conduct the on-site visit carried out in February of 2002.  The Government expressed its concern with respect to the situation, and its commitment to fight the impunity that has characterized these crimes.  The present report is the product of information gathered in connection with that visit and related follow-up activities. 

3.          During the visit, authorities in Ciudad Juárez presented information with respect to the killing of 268 women and girls since 1993.  In a substantial number of cases, the victims were young women or girls, workers in the maquilas (assembly plants) or students, who were sexually abused before being brutally killed.  These authorities also reported on over 250 missing person’s reports filed during that period that remained unresolved.  During the visit, representatives of civil society presented ample information, as well as a letter signed by over 5000 individuals demanding that the Mexican State provide an effective response to this situation.  The letter expressed that: “Since 1993 women living in Ciudad Juárez have been afraid; afraid to go out into the street and walk the distance between their home and their job.  Afraid at 10, 13, 15, 20 years old; it makes no difference if she is a girl or a woman….” 

          4.          While the situation of women in Ciudad Juárez shares many aspects common to other cities in the United Mexican States and the region generally, it is different in certain important respects.  First, the homicide rate for women experienced an unusually sharp rise in Ciudad Juárez in 1993, and the rate has remained elevated since that time.  Second, as explained in more detail in the report, the rate of homicides for women compared to that for men in Ciudad Juárez is significantly higher than for similarly situated cities or the national average.  Third, the extremely brutal circumstances of many of the killings have served to focus attention on the situation in Ciudad Juárez.  A significant number of the victims were young, between 15 and 25, and many were beaten and/or subjected to sexual violence before being strangled or stabbed to death.  A number of the killings that fit this pattern have been characterized as multiple or “serial” killings.  Fourth, the response of the authorities to these crimes has been markedly deficient.  There are two aspects of this response that are especially relevant.  On the one hand, the vast majority of the killings remain in impunity; approximately 20% have been the subject of prosecution and conviction.  On the other hand, almost as soon as the rate of killings began to rise, some of the officials responsible for investigation and prosecution began employing a discourse that in effect blamed the victim for the crime.  According to public statements of certain highly placed officials, the victims wore short skirts, went out dancing, were “easy” or were prostitutes.  Reports document that the response of the relevant officials to the victims’ family members ranged from indifference to hostility. 

5.          The deficiencies in the State’s response were so extreme that, in 1998, the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico issued a recommendation detailing the problems in the official response to the killings, and calling for clarification of the crimes and prosecution of the perpetrators, as well as the sanctioning of the officials who had failed to comply with their duties under the law.  However, that recommendation was not subjected to institutional follow-up to ensure compliance with the measures indicated.  The information gathered for the present report indicates that most of the killings remain in impunity, and no official has ever been held accountable for the grave deficiencies established.  

          6.          Further, while the killings in Ciudad Juárez have increasingly drawn the attention and condemnation of many in Ciudad Juárez and throughout Mexico, including the President and First Lady, and the Commissions on Gender and Equity of the Congress of the Union, as well as of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteurs for extrajudicial executions and the independence of judges and lawyers, respectively, and the Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, that condemnation has not been enough to impel changes in the situation of impunity.  That impunity is highlighted in the present report, because it serves to fuel the perpetuation of these crimes.

7.          While the high level of violence against both men and women is a source of concern for the Commission in more general terms, efforts to sanction past killings of women and prevent future such killings have been impeded by additional obstacles, most especially, discrimination based on gender.  In this sense, it must be emphasized that, as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”) makes clear, violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women.  Violence based on gender originates in and perpetuates those negative power imbalances.  As the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the UN Fourth World Conference on Women sets forth, such violence “is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”  The lack of due diligence to clarify and punish such crimes, and to prevent their repetition reflects that they are not perceived as a serious problem.  The impunity in which such crimes are then left sends the message that such violence is tolerated, thereby fueling its perpetuation.

          8.          At the same time, the Commission and its Special Rapporteur recognize that there have been some important improvements in the official response to these crimes -- improvements that open the door for further progress toward clarification and accountability.  The Mexican State has allocated additional human and material resources to addressing the killings, in particular, the 1998 establishment of a Special Prosecutor’s Office tasked with investigating these homicides, followed by a series of measures to strengthen its capacity.  More can and must be done in this regard.  Importantly, the officials responsible for addressing the situation no longer openly dismiss it as in the past; rather, in dealing with the Commission and its Special Rapporteur, officials at all levels have expressed a commitment to end the killings and fight the existing impunity.  It is important to note that there is widespread agreement among both the State and non-state sectors in Mexico that the situation in Ciudad Juárez is unusual and requires special measures.  In this regard, current administrations at both the national and local levels have shown openness to new initiatives, for example, the establishment of inter-institutional panels designed to incorporate the participation of diverse State and non-state representatives in efforts to resolve these killings.  This openness to implementing new cross-cutting approaches is crucial, because changing the existing situation will require the energetic involvement of all levels of Government, working together and incorporating the contribution of civil society.

          9.          The analysis and recommendations set forth in this report are based first and foremost on the regional human rights obligations of the United Mexican States, principally the American Convention on Human Rights (“American Convention”), and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women ("Convention of Belém do Pará").  In accordance with its obligations under international law, the Mexican State is required to apply due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish crimes of violence against women, and to take effective measures to prevent and eradicate such violence.  The recommendations set forth are aimed at ensuring that the gender dimensions of the violence in Ciudad Juárez receive the energetic State response required.

          10.          The recommendations issued comprise three groups, general recommendations, recommendations concerning the application of due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish these crimes, and the application of due diligence to prevent future such crimes.  The recommendations focus on addressing the impunity that has characterized the vast majority of these killings as a key means to both redress past killings and prevent future such killings.  While a number of recommendations focus on the necessity of amplifying technical capacity, others focus on the fundamental pending challenge of ensuring that the gender specific causes and consequences of violence against women are understood, and that the gender dimensions of these killings are taken into account in efforts to resolve them. 

11.          In this regard, the report emphasizes that many of these killings are manifestations of violence based on gender, particularly sexual violence and domestic or intrafamilial violence.  While public and official attention have focused on the brutality of and fear associated with the so-called “serial” killings, insufficient attention has been devoted to the need to address the discrimination that underlies crimes of sexual or domestic violence, and that underlies the lack of effective clarification and prosecution.  The resolution of these killings requires attention to the root causes of violence against women – in all of its principal manifestations. 

          12.          It is in this sense that Ciudad Juárez shares some discouraging similarities with localities throughout the region.  The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action recognizes that “In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.”  In particular, violence by intimate partners has yet to be understood as the urgent risk for women that it presents.  Recent studies in the Federal District of Mexico, and worldwide by the World Health Organization reflect that of the number of women killed in a given location, up to half will have been killed by an intimate partner.  Yet the root causes of this violence are not being sufficiently addressed.  An important segment of the killings in Ciudad Juárez took place at the hands of an intimate partner, but their significance has yet to be acknowledged by local officials. 

          13.          The Special Rapporteurship and the Commission reiterate their commitment to assisting the Unites Mexican States in implementing solutions to the problems identified.  A number of steps taken to address the situation demonstrate a commitment on the part of members of both the State and non-state sectors to establish accountability for the violence suffered and prevent future violence.  These initial steps show a capacity for further action that is urgently required.

          14.          In this regard, the Commission wishes to underline the positive and constructive attitude of the Government of the United Mexican States with respect to the work of the Commission and its Special Rapporteur concerning the situation of the human rights of women in Ciudad Juárez.  In its observations to the draft version of this report, the Mexican State emphasized the conclusions as being constructive and purposive, and affirmed that “it shares the assessments of the Special Rapporteur and the sense of her recommendations.”*  “Accordingly, these are being analyzed by the corresponding authorities, at the Federal, State and Municipal levels, in order to determine the most adequate form and modalities for the implementation of those that have not been or are not yet in the process of being implemented.”  Further, the Mexican State committed itself to keeping the Commission duly informed about the advances and concrete actions being carried out in relation to the present report and its recommendations.

B.       The Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women of the IACHR and its mandate

15.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights established its Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women in 1994 to renew its commitment to ensuring that the rights of women are fully respected and ensured in each member State.  The current Special Rapporteur, Marta Altolaguirre, a member of the Commission and its current First Vice-President, was named Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in 2000. 

16.          The Special Rapporteurship was established with an initial mandate to analyze the extent to which member State law and practices that affect the rights of women comply with the broad obligations of equality and nondiscrimination set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (“American Declaration”) and the American Convention on Human Rights.  Following the intensive study carried out by the Special Rapporteurship, the Commission published its Report on the Status of Women in the Americas to: provide an overview of the situation; issue recommendations designed to assist the member States in eradicating discrimination in law and practice; and establish priorities for further action by the Special Rapporteurship and the Commission.  The obligations of equality and nondiscrimination continue to serve as the points of orientation for the selection of issues being addressed by the Special Rapporteurship.  Further, the Commission and its Special Rapporteurship place special emphasis on the problem of violence against women, itself a manifestation of gender-based discrimination, as recognized in the Convention of Belém do Pará. 

17.          The Special Rapporteurship serves to: raise awareness of the need for further action to ensure that women are able to fully exercise their basic rights; issue specific recommendations aimed at enhancing member State compliance with their priority obligations of equality and nondiscrimination; promote the mechanisms – for example, the filing of individual complaints of violations – that the inter-American human rights system provides to protect the rights of women; conduct specialized studies and prepare reports in this area; and assist the Commission in responding to petitions and other reports of violations of these rights in the region.[1] 

18.          The priority given by the Commission and its Special Rapporteurship to the protection of the rights of women also reflects the importance given to this area by the member States of the OAS.  In particular, the Plan of Action adopted by the Heads of State and Government during the Third Summit of the Americas recognizes the importance of women’s empowerment, and their full and equal participation in development, political life, and in decision-making at all levels.  To this end, the Plan of Action endorses the Inter-American Program on the Promotion of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equality and other regional initiatives aimed at implementing the commitments set forth in the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action.

19.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a principal organ of the OAS whose primary function is to protect and promote human rights in the Hemisphere and serve as an advisory body to the Organization in this area.  The Commission’s authority derives principally from the American Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of the OAS.  The Commission investigates and rules on complaints of human rights violations, conducts on-site visits, prepares draft treaties and declarations, and reports on the human rights situation in countries of the region.

C.          The on-site visit to Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City of February, 2002

20.          The visit was initiated in Ciudad Juárez on February 11, continued with meetings in Mexico City on February 12, and concluded with a press conference on February 13, 2002.  In the course of her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with federal officials, such as Senator Susana Stephenson Pérez, Chair of the Committee on Equity and Gender of the Senate; Federal Deputy Concepción González Molina, Chair of the Committee on Equity and Gender at the Chamber of Deputies; Deputies Silvia López Escoffié and Olga Haydee Juárez, and Senators Leticia Burgos and María del Carmen Ramírez García, members of those committees; Mr. Sadot Sánchez Carreño, the Chair of the Committee on Human Rights at the Senate; Mr. David Rodríguez Torres, Federal Deputy and member of the Commission for Follow-Up on the investigations of the Women's Murders in Ciudad Juárez; Ms. Mariclaire Acosta Urquidi, Under-Secretary for Human Rights and Democracy and Ms. Patricia Olamendi, Under-Secretary for Global Issues, both of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ms. Patricia Espinosa Torres, President of the National Women’s Institute (Inmujeres) and Martha Laura Carranza, Technical Secretary of Inmujeres; and the following officials from the Office of Prosecutor General of the Republic: Mr. Carlos Vega Memije, Assistant State's Attorney for Criminal Procedures “B”, Dr. María de la Luz Lima Malvido, Assistant State's Attorney for General Coordination and Development, Mr. Eduardo Ibarrola Nicolin, Assistant State's Attorney for Legal Matters and International Affairs, Dr. Miguel Oscar Aguilar Ruiz, Director General of Expert Services, and Dr. Mario I. Alvarez Ledesma, Director General for Protection of Human Rights of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic (“PGR”). 

21.          The Special Rapporteur also held interviews with officials of the State of Chihuahua and of the Municipality of Ciudad Juárez, inter alia, Mr. Jesús José Solís Silva, the State Prosecutor General; Mr. Lorenzo Aquino Miranda, Representative in Chihuahua of the Office of the Prosecutor General; Ms. Suly Ponce, Regional Coordinator of the North Zone from the State Prosecutor General's Office; Ms. Zulema Bolivar, Special Prosecutor for the Investigation of the Women's Murders; Mr. Sergio A. Martínez Garza, Secretary General of the Office of the Governor of the State of Chihuahua; Mr. Oscar Francisco Yáñez Franco, Chair of the State Commission on Human Rights (CEDH); Mr. José Luis Armendáriz, Technical Secretary of the CEDH; Mr. Jaime Flores Castañeda, Principal Inspector of Ciudad Juárez (CEDH); Mr. José Reyes Ferriz, Mayor of Ciudad Juárez; and several officials from the Directorate of Municipal Public Security. 

22.          In addition, she received information and testimony from victims’ relatives, and met with representatives of nongovernmental human rights organizations and other civil society representatives at the local and national level, including, inter alia, Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis, A.C., Red de No Violencia y Dignidad Humana, Campaña “Alto a la Impunidad: Ni Una Muerte Más”, Grupo Feminista Ocho de Marzo de Chihuahua, FEMAP, CIESAS, Círculo de Estudios de Género, Asociación de Amigos y Personas Desaparecidos A.C., MILETNIA, Pastoral Obrera, Pastoral Juvenil Obrera, CETLAC, Commission for Solidarity and Defense of Human Rights (COSYDDHAC), Despacho Obrero, Centro Mujeres, Centro de Investigación y Solidaridad Obrera, Asociación de Trabajadores Sociales, A.C., Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad, Centro Norte Americano para la Solidaridad Sindical Internacional AFL-CIO, Milenio Feminista Convergencia Socialista, ELIGE Red de Jóvenes para los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, A.C., Mujeres Trabajadores Unidas, A.C., Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos A.C., Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, and the Committee on Equity and Gender of Confederation of Telephone Workers of the Mexican Republic.

23.          The Special Rapporteur thanks the Governor of Chihuahua and the Mayor of Ciudad Juárez and their staff for their hospitality during the visit.  The Government of President Vicente Fox provided its full assistance and cooperation during the visit, thus permitting the Special Rapporteur to carry out an extensive program of activities in the discharge of her mandate.  She thanks the Government and its officials for that assistance and for their willingness to cooperate in seeking solutions to the problems posed.  The Special Rapporteur also wishes to extend her thanks to the representatives of Mexican civil society, especially those directly affected by this situation, for their cooperation and the important information supplied during the visit.  The valuable work done by Mexican non-governmental organizations in the field of human rights is a critical factor in the Commission’s ability to monitor the situation of human rights in the country.[2]

D.      Subsequent activities of the Special Rapporteurship and the IACHR to address the situation

          24.          Following the visit, the Commission and its Special Rapporteur have continued to receive information from both State and non-State sources.  During the Commission’s 114º regular period of sessions, in March of 2002, Special Rapporteur Marta Altolaguirre informed the plenary of the Commission about the visit and the information collected, and organized a follow-up hearing before the Commission with representatives of the Mexican State and civil society at the Commission’s headquarters.  The Commission convened an additional hearing during its 116º regular period of sessions, in October of 2002, in order to receive updated information on the situation from both the Mexican State and relevant nongovernmental organizations. 

25.          It was during the latter hearing that the State accepted the request of the nongovernmental organizations “Alto a la impunidad: ni una muerta más” and Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa to the effect that the former provide monthly reports to the Commission on measures taken to follow-up on these crimes, with that information then being transmitted by the Commission to the representatives of those organizations who participated in that hearing.  In late November of 2002, the State provided its first such report, indicating measures taken in certain cases, updating other data, and reporting on the initial work of an inter-institutional working group established to address these crimes.  The Commission and its Special Rapporteur greatly value the willingness of the United Mexican States to provide updated information on a regular basis, and to continue its dialogue with representatives of the non-state sector in the search for solutions to this problem.

          26.          Further, the Commission has received a number of individual petitions concerning women and girls killed in Ciudad Juárez.  It is currently processing petitions 104/02, 281/02, 282/02 and 283/02 in accordance with its Rules of Procedure, and is evaluating others as they are received.  Further, the Commission granted precautionary measures under Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure in favor of Esther Chávez, a human rights defender who has been deeply involved in pursuing justice for these crimes who had received a series of threats in evident connection with that work.  The Commission subsequently granted precautionary measures in favor of Miriam García and Blanca Guadalupe López and their families in relation to threats received.  These women are the wives of two of the men presently detained in relation to some of these killings, Víctor Javier García Uribe and Gustavo González Meza, respectively.  Following the death of Mr. González in his cell on February 8, 2003, under circumstances that remain under investigation, the Commission amplified the precautionary measures to include Mr. García.

          27.          Finally, it may be noted that in the course of a working visit to Mexico to follow-up on certain individual petitions and examine the situation of migrant workers and their families, the President of the Commission, Dr. Juan E. Méndez, received additional information.[3]  Informational meetings were held in Ciudad Juárez on July 30, 2002, with representatives of civil society and family members of certain victims, and subsequently with representatives of the Office of the Special Prosecutor charged with investigating these crimes.  The information received was then forwarded to the Special Rapporteurship for Women’s Rights.

          E.          The scope of the present report, its approval and follow-up

28.          The present report deals with the situation of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez.  It looks closely at the killings that have taken place since 1993, and gives equal attention to other manifestations of violence against women and to the different forms of gender-based discrimination that underlie such violence.  While Ciudad Juárez as a locality is marked by a number of special challenges, including high levels of violence that affect men, women and children, the levels of violence against women, and the impunity in which most cases remain show that the gender dimensions of this violence have yet to be effectively addressed.

29.          Pursuant to its competence as the principal organ of the Organization of American States charged with protecting and promoting human rights in the Americas, and in accordance with its mandate set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights, and more specifically defined in its Statute and Regulations, the Commission monitors human rights developments in each member State of the OAS.  The Commission periodically deems it useful to report the results of its study of a particular country, formulating the corresponding recommendations designed to assist that state in ensuring the fullest enjoyment of protected rights and liberties by those subject to its jurisdiction.

30.          This report was prepared by the Special Rapporteurship on the basis of a diverse array of information.  This includes the interviews and other information gathered during the on-site visit, as well as updated information provided by governmental, intergovernmental, non-governmental and media sources through the Commission’s normal monitoring procedures, as well as through its petition system.  

31.          The draft “Report on the Situation of Violence Against Women in Ciudad Juárez” was approved by the Commission on December 13, 2002.  In accordance with Article 58 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, it was transmitted to the Government of the Mexican State on December 26, 2002, with a request that the latter transmit the observations deemed pertinent within a period of one month.  The observations of the Mexican State with respect to the draft were dated January 29, 2003.  The Commission approved the final version of the report during its 117º period of sessions.

32.          The Special Rapporteurship and the Commission will continue to closely monitor the situation in Ciudad Juárez, with special attention to the steps taken to implement the recommendations set forth in this report.  Both the Special Rapporteur and the Commission wish to underline their willingness to assist the Mexican State in the process of remedying the serious problems identified so that the right of women and girls to be free from violence is fully realized.

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* Unless otherwise noted, translations of quotes from documents provided by the Mexican State or other Mexican sources used in the English version of the present report have been prepared by the IACHR.

[1] The thematic studies, case reports and country reports in question are available through the IACHR’s web site at: www.cidh.org (which includes a search mechanism).

[2] Press release 04/02, issued by the Special Rapporteur at the conclusion of her visit to set forth her preliminary observations on issues examined, will be published in Report of the IACHR 2002, and is available on line at www.cidh.org

[3] On the visit generally, see Press Release Nº 32/02 “IACHR Visit to Mexico” issued on August 1, 2002.