01/16/14 — National and international human rights advocates are applauding the Mexican government’s recent efforts made in a landmark case involving human rights violations by the Mexican military. Four suspects were arrested at the end of December—two months after the order for their arrests was issued—for their alleged involvement in the 2002 attack against two indigenous women in the state of Guerrero. Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú immediately told officials after they were tortured and raped by the four men, all of whom were then active in the military, but their case has dragged on for 12 years. Details about the detained suspects have not been released in an effort to protect their right of innocence until proven guilty.
Human rights groups consider the arrests an important step forward in an already significant case. Being both indigenous and women, Fernández and Rosendo belong to two vulnerable populations that often struggle to have their human rights and access to justice protected. Coupled with the suspects’ positions in the military when the attacks occurred, the victims have faced an uphill battle in their fight. If a case is even heard, the Mexican military court system is notorious for protecting its soldiers when a case of human rights violations involving members of the military is brought forward. As such, the impunity rate for soldiers allegedly violating human rights is dreadfully high. Despite rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) and Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN) to reform Article 57 of the Military Code of Justice and transfer all cases involving civilian victims to the civilian courts, no comprehensive reform has been agreed upon and it remains stuck in Congress. Although Fernández and Rosendo’s case was transferred to civilian authorities back in 2011 following an IACHR ruling, their case is exemplary of the difficulties facing victims of military human rights abuses, especially when the victims are minorities.
Nevertheless, Fernández and Rosendo’s plight has garnered national and international attention over the past 12 years. Advocacy groups supporting their cause have included the Tlachinollan Mountain Human Rights Center (Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan, CDHM-T), the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Amnesty International, and the United Nations, among others. For its part, the CDHM-T considers the recent arrests “a landmark victory for all women that, despite the obstacles and adversities, can raise their voice and denounce violence.” Their case has also been supported by IACHR and SCJN court decisions, though it seems to still be more rhetoric than less tangible action. Said WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico Maureen Meyer, “We recognize the Mexican government’s efforts to make progress in fulfilling the terms of the [IACHR] sentences in favor of these brave women, and we hope that the Mexican government will show the same level of commitment in resolving other pending cases.”
Read more about the Mexican military’s alleged role in violating human rights in the Justice in Mexico report, “Armed With Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.”
“COMUNICADO: Comienzan procesos penales contra probables responsables de las violaciones graves de Derechos Humanos cometidas contra Inés Fernández y Valentina Rosendo.” Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan. January 9, 2014.