International Women’s Day: Take action for Women of Atenco

By Marylou Noble, Group 48 Central America Regional Action Network Coordinator

March 8th is International Women’s Day. I want to bring to your attention the case of women who were arrested as a result of their demonstration in defense of flower sellers in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, Mexico in 2006. Although this event occurred many years ago, the case has not been resolved.

While local flower sellers had reached an agreement with municipal authorities to sell flowers in the main market square of San Salvador Atenco, they were confronted on May 3, 2006 with state and municipal authorities whose purpose was to prevent them from selling their flowers. During the flower sellers’ ensuing protest, two people were killed and many more injured. During continuing protests on the following day, hundreds of individuals were arrested, including at least 45 women. While being transported to prison, many of the women were beaten, raped, and otherwise sexually assaulted by police officers. Although more than two dozen of the women complained of being sexually assaulted, the prison’s medical staff only attended to their most obvious head wounds while conducting no forensic exams.

Many of the women were themselves charged with crimes such as “blocking public roads” and served prison time, with the last of the women being released in 2008. Ultimately, eleven of the women submitted formal complaints regarding the sexual assaults to the National Human Rights Commission.

Although an investigation was conducted at the federal level by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes of Violence Against Women and Human Trafficking , the report of this department concluded that jurisdiction for the prosecution of offending officers falls to Mexico State. With jurisdiction now at the state level, Amnesty International is concerned that impunity will persist.

The following is sample letter that may be sent on behalf of these individuals (postage to Mexico is $0.79 up to 1 oz):

Lic. Enrique Pena Nieto
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Mexico
Lerdo Poniente No. 300, 1er piso, puerta 216
Palacio del Poder Ejecutivo
Col. Centro, C.P. 50000
Toluca, Estado de Mexico
MEXICO

Dear Governor:

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the torture and sexual assault of numerous women by police officials during their detention on 3 and 4 May 2006 in San Salvador Atenco. Although several years have passed, not a single person has been held accountable for these vicious and inexcusable crimes.

I am aware that the Special Prosecutor for Crimes of Violence Against Women and Human Trafficking (FEVIMTRA) recently decided that it does not have jurisdiction in this case in spite of the fact that 34 members of the state security forces were identified as suspects.

As the investigation is once again in the hands of authorities under your responsibility, I urge you to ensure that justice is done. Please take advantage of the documentation on sexual torture collected by FEVIMTRA. In view of the Mexican Supreme Court’s resolution declaring that human rights violations occurred at San Salvador Atenco in May 2006, I am calling on you to ensure that full reparations are made to all of these victims.

Respectfully,

In addition, you can participate in an online action or obtain further background information through the AIUSA website.

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