A.          Introduction

          33.          When hundreds of nongovernmental organizations began contacting the Special Rapporteur about the situation of women in Ciudad Juárez in late 2001, the key concern set forth was that the killing of over 200 women since 1993 had been left in impunity.  The victims were killed brutally: many were raped or beaten before being strangled or stabbed to death.  A number of the bodies bore signs of torture or mutilation.  Theories about the motives for the murders of these young women ranged from narcotrafficking to prostitution to serial killings.  The organizations emphasized that, although a Special Prosecutor’s Office had been created in 1998 to investigate these crimes, the climate of violence and intimidation of women continued, and only one person had been sentenced for one of what were characterized as “serial” crimes.  The organizations further reported that the authorities tended to respond to these crimes and to the family members of the victims in ways that were discriminatory and even disrespectful. 

          34.          The organizations reported on the negligence of the authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting these crimes, and the overall inefficacy of the administration of justice and lack of political will at all levels to confront the problem.  They indicated that, while the problem had received attention at the national and even international levels, there had been no real commitment to an effective response.  For example, while the National Human Rights Commission had issued a specific recommendation in 1998 aimed at redressing some of these deficiencies, its key aspects had not been implemented.  Nor had the respective recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions and the independence of judges and lawyers concerning the inefficacy of the Mexican State’s response to these crimes been heeded.  The organizations indicated that, because the Mexican State was allowing these crimes to remain in impunity, it was encouraging their persistence.

          35.          In that initial stage, the Mexican State, both at the Federal level and through the officials of Chihuahua, manifested great concern with respect to the killings and openness to the visit of the Special Rapporteur.  The pertinent authorities in Chihuahua, principally of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Justice of the State (hereinafter “PGJE”), provided information on efforts to investigate and clarify the killings, in particular those of the Special Prosecutor’s Office established in 1998 to deal with these crimes.  The authorities indicated that the establishment of this Office, and the adoption thereafter of new methods of work, policies and programs in response to these crimes manifested the seriousness of its response.  The PGJE emphasized that it believed important advances had been achieved.

          36.          What became clear in the course of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, and has been reaffirmed in the information analyzed since, is that the killings that have received special attention due to the barbarity of their circumstances or possible character as “serial” killings are integrally related to a larger situation of gender-based violence that includes disappearances, other sexual crimes and domestic violence.  A common denominator with respect to most of these crimes is the inability of the victims or their families to obtain prompt access to effective judicial protection and guarantees.  These problems, in turn, are inextricably related to patterns of historical gender-based discrimination.  The denial of an effective response both springs from and feeds back into the perception that violence against women – most illustratively domestic violence – is not a serious crime.  The lack of an effective official response is part and parcel of the larger context of discrimination.  Addressing the killings necessarily requires addressing the larger problems of violence and discrimination based on gender through, first and foremost, prompt and effective access to justice. 

B.          The context of Ciudad Juárez

37.          Ciudad Juárez is a gateway city in the State of Chihuahua.  It is a gateway for many Mexicans who migrate north in search of jobs with the maquila industry that dominates the border area.  Ciudad Juárez is a key manufacturing center, with foreign and domestic maquilas attracting a huge labor force.  In this sense, it is viewed by many as a gateway to greater job opportunities.  It is also a gateway for migration, both legal and illegal, north to the United States.  Ciudad Juárez is just across from El Paso, Texas to the north.  The State of Chihuahua is bordered on the east by the State of Sonora, and on the west by the State of Coahuila.

38.          Representatives of both the State and non-state sectors have consistently emphasized that Ciudad Juárez is characterized by a diverse array of especially serious challenges.  With over 1,200,000 inhabitants, the Municipality of Ciudad Juárez is the largest population center in the State of Chihuahua, itself the largest State in the United Mexican States.  Because of its location and industrial development, the population has grown and continues to expand extremely rapidly.  According to the State of Chihuahua, more than half of the population of the Municipality consists of people from other areas of the country or foreigners.[4]  In this regard, the State indicated that cultural, economic and social differences within the population generate particularly complex problems.  Nor does Ciudad Juárez possess sufficient infrastructure or public services to meet the needs of the ever-increasing population.  Marginalized sectors of the population often lack access to decent housing, clean drinking water, sanitation services and public health services.

39.          Information gathered during the visit pointed out that, as a border town, Ciudad Juárez has been marked by rising crime, including the penetration of organized crime and narcotrafficking, and an increase in gang activity and the presence of firearms.  Notably in this regard, almost all the killings classified as executions in the State of Chihuahua take place in Ciudad Juárez.[5]  These and other problems generate high levels of violence that affect the men, women and children living there.

40.          Some representatives of civil society also referred during the Special Rapporteur’s visit to sharp shifts in established cultural patterns for some who migrate to Ciudad Juárez, in the sense that jobs are more plentiful for women, including for young women, who are then able to exercise greater economic independence.  In fact, reports indicate that over half the maquila work force in the area is comprised of women.  They pointed to these shifts in traditional patterns as sometimes generating tension in a society marked by historical inequalities between men and women and few resources to assist in changing those attitudes.

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

1.          The killing of women and girls since 1993

Esmeralda[6] was 15 years old when she was last seen alive on October 29, 2001.  She worked in a home as a domestic employee.  When her mother went to the authorities on October 30, 2001 to file a missing persons report, they told her she had to wait 48 hours.  Esmeralda’s body may have been recovered along with other remains on November 7, 2001.  Her mother has indicated that she still isn’t sure.  DNA tests were being done, but the results were taking months and months.  While her mother has said that she knows there are many cases, the one that matters most to her is that of her daughter.

Lilia Alejandra was 17 when she disappeared on February 14, 2001.  She worked in a maquila.  Lilia Alejandra’s mother began passing out flyers as part of the search.  Days later, the window of the mother’s car appeared broken, and a roll of those flyers was found inside.  When the police did not arrive in response to her call, she took the car to the station herself, but no clues were uncovered.  Lilia Alejandra’s body, naked and strangled, was found in a vacant lot just over a week after her disappearance.  She left two children, the younger five months old.  When Lilia Alejandra’s mother went to the authorities to ask about the investigation, she was told she was “drowning in a glass of water” and that women like that die all over the world.

          41.          Reports indicate that at least 285 women and girls have been killed in Ciudad Juárez from the beginning of 1993 to late October of 2002.  During the Special Rapporteur’s visit in February of 2002, the Mexican State reported on the killing of 268 women between January of 1993 and January of 2002.  Although there is not exact agreement between the numbers reported by the State and nongovernmental organizations, they are largely consistent.  As of the October, 2002 hearing, nongovernmental and press reports estimated the total as between 285 and 300.

42.          The information the Commission and its Special Rapporteurship have gathered indicates that Ciudad Juárez has been marked by a sharply rising crime rate with respect to both men and women, but that the rise with respect to women is anomalous in various respects.  1993 marked the first year of a notable increase in the killing of women.  One group reported that, while 37 women had been killed between 1985 and 1992, approximately 269 were killed between 1993 and 2001.[7]  While homicide rates for both men and women increased, that for women rose at double the rate of that for men.[8]  Further, the homicide rate for women in Ciudad Juárez is disproportionately higher than that for similarly situated border cities.[9] 

          43.          Although the circumstances and lack of clarification make it difficult to characterize the motivation behind these crimes with much certainty, there is general agreement among both the State and non-state sectors that most relate to manifestations of violence with gender specific causes and consequences.  A substantial number are linked to sexual violence, and others to domestic and intrafamilial violence.  Some cases present multiple forms of such violence.

44.          Both the State and non-state sectors reported a significant number of killings characterized as multiple or “serial” in nature -- fitting a pattern with respect to the circumstances.  The victims of these crimes have preponderantly been young women, between 15 and 25 years of age.  Some were students, and many were maquila workers or employed in local shops or businesses.  A number were relative newcomers to Ciudad Juárez who had migrated from other areas of Mexico.  The victims were generally reported missing by their families, with their bodies found days or months later abandoned in vacant lots or outlying areas.  In most of these cases there were signs of sexual violence, abuse, torture or in some cases mutilation.  As of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the PGJE estimated that 76 of the killings fit this pattern. 

45.          These characteristics are illustrated to an extent in the finding of eight bodies in a vacant lot on November 6 and 7, 2001.  After one body was found on November 6, a search of the area revealed two more bodies the same day, and five sets of bones the following day.  At the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the PGJE affirmed its belief that the bodies were those of: Guadalupe Luna de la Rosa, Verónica Martínez Hernández, Bárbara Aracely Martínez Ramos, María de los Angeles Acosta Ramírez, Mayra Juliana Reyes Solis, Laura Berenice Ramos Monarrez, Claudia Ivette González and Esmeralda Herrera Monreal.  Scientific tests were being done in most of the cases to confirm the identifications.

46.          Reports and testimony received during the Special Rapporteur’s visit yielded the following information about these young women:  Guadalupe was 19, and had been a student at the Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Juárez when her parents last saw her leave home on September 30, 2000 to meet a girlfriend to go shopping.  19 year-old Verónica, a maquila worker and student, disappeared after having taken a bus to the center of town on October 19, 2000.  Bárbara, 21 years old and employed, disappeared on December 26, 2000.  María de los Angeles, a 19 year old maquila worker and student, disappeared April 25, 2001, after having last been seen in the center of the city.  Mayra, 17, was last seen in the center of the city, where she had gone looking for work on June 25, 2001.  Laura Berenice, a student, was 17 when she disappeared on September 25, 2001.  Claudia Ivette, a 20 year old maquila operator, disappeared October 10, 2001.  Finally, Esmeralda, a domestic worker, was 15 when she disappeared on October 29, 2001.  The victims disappeared over a span of approximately a year, each on a different date and from a different place.  All were young, ranging in age between 15 and 21.  The bodies found on November 6 and 7 had all been dumped subsequent to death.

          47.          Many, including family members, members of nongovernmental organizations and other representatives of civil society, expressed grave concerns about both the circumstances of these crimes and the response of the authorities.  In particular, these individuals indicated that they lacked certain basic information necessary to have confidence in the attribution of identity made by officials.  In one instance, for example, a family member had reportedly been denied the possibility to see the remains “for her own protection,” and in others, the remains had not yet been returned to the presumed families.  Certain family members expressed grave doubts as to whether the body of their loved one had really been found, or whether they might keep hoping that the person reported missing was still alive.  While DNA tests had been ordered with respect to the remains recovered in November, months had passed with no answers.  As of October of 2002, authorities of the PGJE indicated to the Commission that the results of these tests had not yet been received.  Representatives of civil society reported that, in an unspecified number of prior cases, family members had requested DNA tests to confirm the identity of the victim and been denied.

48.          Because of the lack of basic information, family members in these and other cases have expressed a profound lack of confidence in the willingness or ability of the authorities to clarify what happened or pursue accountability.  Further, family members in these and other cases reported having received conflicting or confusing information from the authorities, and having been treated dismissively or even disrespectfully or aggressively when they sought information about the investigations.  During the March, 2002 hearing before the Commission, representatives of “Alto a la impunidad: ni una muerta más” reported that family members of the victims whose bodies were presumably found on November 6 and 7, 2001, had returned to the site on February 25, 2002, and found clothing or other objects related to some of the victims at the scene. 

49.          The authorities of Ciudad Juárez, for their part, point to the November 9, 2001 detention of Gustavo González Meza (“La Foca”) and Javier García Uribe (“El Cerillo”) in connection with these crimes as evidence of its prompt response.  During the Special Rapporteur’s visit, however, numerous individuals, including some Mexican State officials, expressed serious concerns about allegations that these detainees had been tortured to coerce confessions.  Both confessed in initial declarations, and both later retracted those confessions. 

50.          With respect to these allegations of torture, during her visit, the Special Rapporteur received two distinct sets of medical certificates.  The set provided by the PGJE was prepared by the Department of Legal Medicine on November 11, 2001, at 02:40 and 02:45 hours, respectively.  The certificate relative to González indicates no external signs of violence, while that relative to García refers to a small zone of equimosis on his right arm that would heal in less than 15 days.  The other set of certificates, prepared by the Medical Unit of the detention center at 21:00 hours on November 11, 2001, attested in the case of González to “multiples quemaduras en genitales” and areas of equimosis in the area of the thorax and edema.  In the case of García, it refers to “[m]ultiples quemaduras de 1er grado en genitales” y marks on his right arm.[10]  Subsequent reports indicate that the allegations of torture were denounced both to the authorities and publicly, but that the judiciary rejected the claims with respect to coercion as unsubstantiated.  It was also reported that the person in charge of expert services at the PGJE at the time had resigned because of pressure to charge the results of certain expert tests to inculpate the two men detained.[11]  The death of Mr. González on February 8, 2003, while in his cell, under circumstances that remain under investigation, has generated renewed expressions of concern with respect to this criminal process.

          2.          Disappearances of women

          51.          At the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the PGJE reported that, during the period from 1993 to January of 2002, 4,154 reports of missing persons had been filed in Ciudad Juárez.  Of these, 3,844 of the persons in question had been located.  In 53 instances, the PGJE had direct or indirect knowledge of the situation of the person in question, but would not declare the matter closed unless or until that person had physically appeared in the Subprocuraduría.  257 of those reported missing remained unaccounted for. 

          52.          With respect to the year 2002, the State recently indicated that for the period from January through October, 285 reports of disappearances of women had been filed.  Of these, 257 of the individuals in question had been located.  6 were in “reserve” because they involved a wrong or changed address, or because the presumed victim had contacted the family without providing information as to their whereabouts.  22 were under investigation.

53.          Recent information suggests that over these years, only a small number of files (fewer than 10) were transferred from the prosecutor in charge of missing persons to the prosecutor for homicides.  It was not clear at the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit the extent to which efforts had been made to cross reference data on the missing women with that of unidentified homicide victims.

54.          With respect both to the women reported as missing whose bodies were later recovered, and those still unaccounted for, one of the central concerns expressed by family members as well as representatives of civil society was delay in initiating investigations.  On the one hand, they indicated that family members who went to the police to report a missing person might well be told to return in 48 hours, with the explanation that the missing woman or girl must have gone off with a boyfriend and would soon return.  On the other hand, they indicated that even with a missing person’s report, the response was neither rapid nor comprehensive. 

55.          While authorities in Chihuahua acknowledged to the Special Rapporteur that, in the past, the police had tended to require such a lapse of time before taking a missing persons report, this had been remedied through changes in policy and practice requiring a rapid investigation.  In October of 2002, the PGJE reported that the Unit for Attention to Victims of the Special Prosecutor’s Office’s had been fortified with additional staff, that immediate searches had been prioritized (particularly where the circumstances suggested high risk – as in the characteristics associated with the “serial” killings), and that agents of the PGJE were now participating in these efforts so that measures could be carried out on-site.  As a consequence, the PGJE indicated, more of these reports were being resolved through the location of the persons presumed missing.  In view of the reports of delay in this regard through late 2001, the issue of rapid investigation of reports of disappearance merits very close monitoring and evaluation.

          56.          Following her visit to Ciudad Juárez, the Special Rapporteur’s attention has been drawn to a preoccupying series of disappearances in the City of Chihuahua that may share some of the characteristics of the crimes in Ciudad Juárez.  During the hearing before the Commission in October of 2002, representatives of “Alto a la impunidad: ni una muerta más” reported on the disappearance of 15 women and girls in the City of Chihuahua.  They reported that the body of one of the victims had been found, although the case had yet to be subject to an effective investigation.  They further indicated that the other disappearances had not been duly investigated, to the point that the file in the case of one victim who disappeared in 1998 consisted of six pieces of paper.

3.          Domestic and intrafamilial violence

          57.          The killing of women in Ciudad Juárez is strongly linked to and influenced by the prevalence of domestic and intrafamilial violence.  A review of official data, press reports and nongovernmental reports indicates that a significant number of killings since 1993 evidently took place in connection with situations of domestic and intrafamilial violence.   

58.          Violence within the family, including battery, sexual abuse and rape, is certainly not unique to Ciudad Juárez, or to the Mexican State, for that matter.  However, the lack of reliable statistics remains one of the obstacles in defining the scope of the problem.  In fact, the Special Rapporteurship has encountered no adequate data on the prevalence of such violence in Ciudad Juárez. 

59.          Nonetheless, a number of studies provide a general indication of the gravity of the situation.  These indicate that approximately one-third to one-half of Mexican women living as part of a couple suffered some form of abuse (physical, emotional, psychological, economic or sexual) at the hands of their partner.[12]  Women between the ages of 15 and 29, and pregnant women were reported as being especially affected.[13]  Such violence affects men, women and children, but the aggressors are most frequently men.  The short and long-term consequences of such violence help perpetuate the subordination of women, and deprive women of opportunities on equal terms with men.  Further, economic subordination and the need to support children lead many women to remain in abusive situations. 

60.          Such violence leads in extreme cases to homicide.  While the Commission has not encountered much documentation in this regard, one study by the National Secretariat for Health reportedly examined 15,000 death certificates from the metropolitan area of the Capital.  Of those, 1,935 concerned the deaths of women, and of those, 48% were reportedly the result of domestic violence.[14] 

61.          With respect to Ciudad Juárez, killings reported in the media range from a stepfather alleged to have beaten his two-year old stepdaughter to death to a son who stabbed his mother to death for refusing to pay his debts for him.[15]  The killing of María Luisa Carsoli Berumen on December 21, 2001, shortly before the visit of the Special Rapporteur, illustrates some of the characteristics of this problem.

María Luisa was the 33 year-old mother of 4 children, ranging from 3 to 8 years old.  She had been married to Ricardo Medina Acosta for 10 years at the time he killed her in front of the Casa Amiga, a crisis center for women subjected to violence.  The couple had sought counseling there about a year before in relation to Medina’s violent attacks against his wife.  In need of money, María Luisa had then taken a job at Casa Amiga as a receptionist.  The violence did not stop, however, and he was in fact briefly detained in November of 2001 for having tried to kill his wife.  Reports indicate that Medina was released shortly after his detention.  María Luisa went through various reconciliation attempts and remained in Ciudad Juárez in order to safeguard the interests of her children; their father had at some point been granted custody.  The day before the killing, she had left their home.  The day of the killing, he was waiting for her outside Casa Amiga.  He grabbed her, they exchanged words, and he stabbed her to death.  He was deemed a fugitive at the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit.[16]

4.          Sexual violence

62.          The different forms of violence referred to above are often connected to sexual violence.  As noted above, a substantial number of the women killed, especially the victims of the so-called “serial” killings, had been raped, or otherwise sexually abused.  A number of those bodies bore signs of torture or, in some cases, mutilation.  Further, the Rapporteur received very general information during her visit about a high incidence of rape and sexual violence outside the context of these killings.

63.          While the extent of these aspects of the problem is unclear, evidence in certain cases suggests links to prostitution or trafficking for sexual exploitation.  Both can involve situations of coercion and abuse of women working in or forced to participate in the sex trade.  Among others, the Director of UNIFEM has indicated that the situation of Ciudad Juárez, involving as it does the problems of drug trafficking, pornography rings and prostitution, among others, is a significant factor in the increase of violence against women.  She noted that until these related problems were dealt with seriously, the killings in Ciudad Juárez would not stop.[17]

64.          As is the case with the other forms of violence based on gender referred to above, sexual violence is driven by gender inequality.  While it is a serious human rights problem, it tends to be under-documented, under-reported and under-researched.  In this regard, one of the questions that arises in relation to the killings under study is why, given the prevalence of sexual abuse in such cases generally, tests to confirm such abuse were not performed in some cases.  Because these instances have not been clarified, it is difficult to attribute an explanation, but it does suggest that sexual violence has not always been dealt with as a serious element of these crimes.

D.          Threats against those involved in search for justice

          65.          During her visit, and in subsequent follow-up activities, the Special Rapporteur has received information about threats and acts of hostility against human rights defenders involved in these cases, family members of victims seeking investigation, and journalists reporting on the crimes and the search for justice.[18]  In interviews, for example, several family members reported receiving anonymous, intimidating phone calls.  Reports indicate that several family members have been warned to stop pursuing accountability.  Several reported having been watched or followed.  In most cases, the individuals affected indicated that they had not denounced the intimidation to the authorities, because of lack of confidence and/or fear. 

66.          Just days prior to the Special Rapporteur’s visit, the lawyer for Gustavo González Meza, one of those accused in connection with the killing of the victims whose bodies were allegedly found in November of 2001, was himself shot and killed by judicial police as he was driving in Ciudad Juárez.  Mario César Escobedo Anaya’s father reported that he had been speaking with his son via cellular phone at the time the shots were fired.  In the aftermath, family members, local leaders and various local bar associations exhorted the authorities to clarify and punish the killing, and expressed concern that the initial investigation had been marked by what they characterized as serious irregularities.[19]  Local authorities indicated that the agents in question had shot in self-defense, and had subsequently been placed on suspension.  Escobedo had maintained that his client had been tortured under custody to provide a false confession.  The Special Rapporteur received information during her visit that Escobedo had received threats just days before he was killed.  The killing of Escobedo attracted tremendous public attention, and many individuals, including a number of Mexican State representatives, expressed strong concern to the Special Rapporteur regarding the circumstances.

67.          As noted in chapter I above, the Commission granted precautionary measures for Esther Chávez Cano, a human rights defender involved in the pursuit of justice in these cases, and for the families of González and García, the two men detained in connection with the bodies found in November of 2001.  All had received a series of threats.  As also indicated above, the precautionary measures granted with respect to these families were amplified following the death of Mr. González to include Mr. García.  Mario César Escobedo Anaya had been defending González at the time he was killed, and reports indicate that the lawyer currently defending García has also received threats.[20]

68.          During her visit and thereafter, the Special Rapporteur has received information about threats against journalists covering these crimes.  She interviewed several journalists who referred to threats or pressure in relation to their work on these crimes, and a general climate of fear surrounding them.  Press reports from the time of the visit indicate that journalists Samira Izaguirre, José Antonio Tirado and José Loya had been threatened and harassed, evidently in connection with their work relating to these crimes.[21]  Further, a journalist based in Chihuahua complained of harassment and threats since the time she had started reporting on the killings there.[22] 

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

1.          The response of the justice sector

          69.          While there have been some important advances, the response of the Mexican State to the killings and other forms of violence against women has been and remains seriously deficient.  As such, it is a central aspect of the problem.  Overall, the impunity in which most violence based on gender remains serves to fuel its perpetuation.

70.          Representatives of civil society express indignation over the insufficient response of the police and judiciary to these killings, in particular with respect to the series of killings of young women that appear to fit a pattern.  These representatives and family members of various victims complain of: delay in the initiation of investigations into reported disappearances; insufficient efforts in the initial investigation; the failure to collect or record evidence; evidence lost or missing from case files; mistreatment of family members of victims by the authorities; lack of information as to the status or results of the investigation or orientation as to the legal mechanisms; lack of support services for the survivors of those killed; and lack of results with respect to the identification, prosecution and punishment of those responsible.  Many have expressed concern that attention is focused on the clarification of recent crimes, with little or no effort given to the investigation of killings that took place prior to 1998.  Similarly, many have commented that each time a new killing is reported, resources are shifted to that investigation, with little follow up on those already underway.

a.       The response from 1993 to the issuance of Recommendation 44/98 of the CNDH

          71.          The Mexican State, for its part, recognizes that mistakes were made during the first years that it was confronted with these killings.  It acknowledges, for example, that it was not uncommon for the police to tell a family member attempting to report a girl missing to return in 48 hours, when it was clear there might be something to investigate.  Both State and non-state representatives indicated that the authorities in Ciudad Juárez would often dismiss initial complaints by saying the victim was out with a boyfriend and would soon return home.  The PGJE further noted a lack of technical and scientific capacity and training at that time for members of the judicial police.  Officials of the State of Chihuahua indicated that the deficiencies were such that, in 25 cases dating back to the first years of the killings, the “files” consisted of little more than bags containing sets of bones, which provided virtually no basis to pursue further investigation.[23] 

          72.          In fact, the problems were such that, pursuant to the complaint filed by Federal Deputy Alma Angélica Vucovich Seele, the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) carried out an investigation of the Mexican State’s response to 36 of the killings, and issued its Recommendation 44/98 in 1998 containing specific recommendations to remedy the deficiencies identified and hold those responsible to account.  The recommendations were based on a detailed review of the case files and the procedures applied.  The review of the case files demonstrated fundamental deficiencies, such as the failure to collect basic evidence and complete simple tests.  For example, of the cases reviewed, in 10 there had been a sexual attack, in 8 there had not, and in 6 it wasn’t known because no tests were done to make such a determination.  Basic measures to establish identity had not been taken.  Some files were missing forensic reports or death certificates.  The CNDH also drew attention to the delay in processing the cases.          

73.          The CNDH emphasized that these cases were being dealt with in an isolated way, without taking into account the larger context of violence against women, and the effects of impunity within the society as a whole.  It indicated that officials of the PGJE had constructed an unfounded discourse about the victims -- to the effect that they were women of few resources, without close ties, that it was not known how many were prostitutes, but that many were known in night spots, etc. – in order to excuse or obscure their failure to discharge their responsibilities under the law.  This, the CNDH underlined, was both discriminatory and an indication of the lack of will to protect the rights of the victims. 

74.          The CNDH indicated that, as a result of the acts and omissions of the State functionaries in the justice sector, the human rights of the victims and their family members had been violated in contravention of national and international obligations of the Mexican State, including the Convention of Belém do Pará.  The specific recommendations concerned the need to complete basic measures of investigation, ensure interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaboration, adopt effective public security measures and strengthen the administration of justice, and hold those responsible for the acts and omissions reported accountable administratively, and the extent justified, criminally.

75.          The unfortunate fact that there has been no institutional follow-up by the CNDH to ensure that these recommendations were fully implemented, and report on the steps taken means that this valuable initiative did not realize its full potential.  In fact, full implementation of those recommendations would undoubtedly have had a positive effect on the situation.  In this regard, as will be explained below, a number of initiatives aimed at producing advances with respect to this situation have failed to receive the necessary follow-up.  There is, in this sense, a pattern of efforts that are initiated but never fully realized, and therefore fail to produce a significant impact in diminishing violence against women.

          b.          The situation since the establishment of the Special Prosecutor’s Office

76.          The position of the authorities of the State of Chihuahua is that, since the establishment of the Special Prosecutor’s Office in 1998, it has initiated the steps necessary to promptly and properly respond to these crimes, and has produced a much better record of clarification of cases.[24]  During the Special Rapporteur’s visit, Chihuahua officials reported that the Special Prosecutor’s Office is comprised of agents of the Ministerio Público and PGJE with specialized training.  They indicated that it has been provided the technical capacity to better respond to these crimes, through equipment including a DNA laboratory that was about to be installed at the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, and through the installation of various information systems that would allow investigators to track data and access national databases on such matters as fingerprints.[25]  They also described a recently constructed data base used to track some of the killings and disappearances presently under study and extract information about characteristics and trends. 

77.          In terms of procedures, it was reported that each homicide was assigned to a particular group of agents responsible for the investigation from start to finish in order to avoid the problem of possible lost or missing information, and ensure the integrity of the investigation and resulting file.  In addition to the normal functions, agents of the group are present for the autopsy in order to be informed of the information and evidence revealed, and are tasked with providing follow-up through the final sentence. 

78.          The authorities indicated that the Special Prosecutor’s Office coordinates with other instances in a number of important areas.  They reported that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation had given a number of courses in such issues as crime scene management and the interchange of information aimed at locating suspects.  The Office exchanged information with the PGR, which had also provided expert assistance with some DNA tests.  Further, the National Public Security System, the PGR and the Universidad Autónoma of Ciudad Juárez had assisted by providing a number of other specialized courses.  Additionally, the Special Prosecutor’s Office collaborates with the police of the Municipality of Ciudad Juárez in certain activities, and is assisted with some mapping and technical data by the Instituto Municipal de Investigación y Planeación.

          79.          It was reported that a specialized area for attention to the victims of crime had been established within the Office to provide legal, psychological and social services to those requiring them.  There are also specialized units to investigate reports of disappearances, and to address sexual crimes and crimes against the family.  With respect to the foregoing initiatives, the authorities of Chihuahua expressed concern, however, that the federal funds allocated for the activities of the Special Prosecutor’s Office were insufficient.

          80.          The information available reflects that efforts made to improve the response to these crimes through the Office of the Special Prosecutor have resulted in some improvements.  Certainly the situation is not as grave as in the first years in which bags of bones were sometimes left as the only record in the aftermath of a killing.  Nor is the tone of the official discourse as facially discriminatory as was documented by the CNDH in its Recommendation 44/98.  At the same time, representatives of civil society and others who have monitored the response of the justice sector continue to report a deficient response, both with respect to the substance of the investigations and with respect to the treatment accorded by police and prosecutorial personnel to the family members of the victims.

          c.          The status of investigations and prosecutions

81.          An illustrative statistic for understanding the conflicting perspectives on the performance of police and judicial authorities with respect to these killings is the number of cases the Special Prosecutor’s Office considers to have been “resolved.”  The Office of the PGJE of Chihuahua reported to the Special Rapporteur during her visit that, of the 268 killings of women it had recorded between January of 1993 and January of 2002, it classified 76 as fitting into a pattern of multiple or “serial” killings, and 192 as “situational,” that is, crimes of passion, narcotrafficking, robbery, sexual crimes, fights, intrafamilial violence, vengeance, unintentional homicide or motives unknown.  With respect to the 76 classified as multiple killings, it classified 27 as “resolved,” and 49 as under investigation.  In relation to these, the PGJE reported on the conviction of one perpetrator for one crime.  With respect to the 192 “situational” killings, it classified 152 as “resolved,” and 40 as under investigation.  Of these, the PGJE reported that 57 had been the subject of a prosecution and conviction.  In late November of 2002, the State reported on the conviction of two other individuals sentenced to prison terms.  The data indicates that, of the total number of killings, approximately 20% have been subject to prosecution and conviction.

82.          Further questioning from the Special Rapporteur as to this classification system yielded the explanation that “resolved” for the PGJE signified that the Office of the Special Prosecutor felt that it had enough information upon which to make a presumption as to the motive and culpability of a presumed perpetrator and that the person had been presented before a judge (“consignado”).  It did not necessarily signify that a particular individual had been formally charged or tried.  It was not clearly explained, however, how indicia not yet sufficient to support formal accusation and prosecution was nonetheless sufficient to make a determination as to motive and to declare the crime “resolved.”[26] 

83.          With respect to the multiple or “serial” killings, the Mexican State reported that Omar Latif Sharif was detained in 1996 in relation to three killings.  He was prosecuted for the killing of Elizabeth Castro García and convicted.  At the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, his sentence was still on appeal because, pursuant to his conviction, the defense had requested and was granted the “reposición” of the case to review an aspect under challenge.  Further, the Mexican State reported that six members of a gang called “los Rebeldes” were detained in 1996 in connection with 7 cases of rape and murder.  Members of another gang, “el Tolteca” and “los Ruteros” were detained in relation to another 8 cases in 1999, and the men known as “el Cerillo” and “la Foca” were detained in 2001 in relation to 8 cases.  Apart from the prosecution of Sharif, the Mexican State reported that each of the other proceedings remained in the investigation stage of prosecution.

84.          The theory proffered by the PGJE during the Special Rapporteur’s visit was that the “Rebeldes” and “Ruteros,” as well as “El Cerillo” and “La Foca” had been working under the instructions of Sharif in the perpetration of many of the multiple or “serial” killings, although the State indicated that there were not sufficient elements of proof to initiate the corresponding criminal proceedings for many of those crimes. 

85.          From the perspective of many representatives of civil society, the key statistic is that only one perpetrator, Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif, has been sentenced with respect to one of the multiple or “serial” killings.  While the “Rebeldes” have been detained since 1996 and the “Ruteros” since 1999, the killings didn’t stop, and these alleged perpetrators have yet to be convicted.  These representatives have consistently expressed concerns about the use of torture to coerce confessions in some of these cases, for example in the cases of Gustavo González Meza and Víctor Javier García Uribe.  In sum, many expressed a lack of confidence that the true perpetrators had been detained, and all expressed dismay at the lack of conclusive prosecution and punishment.

86.          In its observations on the draft of the present report, the Mexican State specified that:

Although it is true that in the first investigations there were various delays and irregularities, it must be recognized that 93 of those responsible for the killing and disappearance of women, including accomplices and collaborators, have been delivered to justice.  Accordingly, it cannot be considered that a phenomenon of impunity prevails in Ciudad Juárez, insofar as this concept implies the inactivity of the Government to sanction those responsible. 

In this regard, the Rapporteur and Commission wish to recognize that the efforts through which the submission of these individuals to justice were achieved demonstrate that, applying the necessary actions, it is possible to achieve advances in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.  However, it does not escape the attention of those who know the situation in Ciudad Juárez that, during the years covered by this report, approximately 300 girls and women have been killed, and almost 300 remain on the list of missing persons.  In this sense, in a high percentage of cases there are no effective results in terms of investigation or resolution.

          87.          In looking at the role of Federal justice, in particular assistance from the PGR, the Special Rapporteur received information during her visit indicating that, in addition to providing some training and assisting with information systems, the PGR had been asked by the Special Prosecutor’s Office to provide technical assistance in relation to the finding of the eight bodies in November of 2001.  The PGR reported that it had sent specialized technical personnel to assist with that investigation, and that its main contribution was processing the DNA tests on some of the remains recovered.  While the Commission has received information to the effect that the authorities of Chihuahua have invited assistance from the PGR in general terms and that the PGR has offered it, again in general terms, it appears that each is invoking the scope of its jurisdiction as the basis for resisting further or deeper joint engagement in the investigation of these crimes.

2.          Efforts from other sectors and institutional collaboration to seek solutions

88.          In addition to the justice sector, it is evident that a response to these killings and other crimes is required from a broad range of State and non-state actors.  In terms of the efforts of other sectors, these forms of violence against women require responses as a public security issue in terms of preventing such crime, as well as a public health issue in terms of both prevention and services for victims, and a social issue in terms of the effect on families and the social fabric in Juárez. 

89.          In this regard, the Special Rapporteur received information during her visit about initiatives aimed at addressing the public security dimensions of the problem.  For example, the Mayor of the Municipality and members of his team reported on promising initiatives to install a telephone hotline to take emergency calls from women at risk from domestic violence, harassment in the street, etc.; implement a program of stricter controls for hiring drivers in the public transport service; install more street lighting; launch a new anonymous complaint program called “Juntos contra la Delincuencia” (Together against Crime); and work with some in-bond assembly plants to adopt measures to ensure that no woman is left alone on the buses that transport them to and from work.  In addition to efforts at the Municipal level, the PGJE has also reported on outreach and educational efforts of the Office of the Special Prosecutor aimed at disseminating information to women on self-protection and defense, principally in schools and maquilas, and violence awareness programs. 

90.          In looking at work to involve non-State actors, the Special Rapporteur has also received very general information about efforts of maquila employers on issues concerning the situation and treatment of their workers and questions of public security.  With respect to the latter, for example, the situation presently under study raises questions about security in and around the industrial parks where the maquilas are located, and concerns about the many workers who travel significant distances late at night to work their shifts.  In this regard, the Mexican State bears responsibility for ensuring that the maquilas are meeting their duties under law to their workers, and has a special role in encouraging the maquilas to invest in measures to support the workers and communities that serve them and helping to channel such investment for the public good.

91.          In terms of the participation of the Federal Government sector, during her visit the Special Rapporteur received detailed information on the valuable activities of the Congressional Commissions on Equity and Gender, and the Special Commission of the Chamber of Deputies created to provide follow-up on the killings of women in Ciudad Juárez.  That Special Commission has held meetings with relatives of victims, nongovernmental organizations that work in this area, State officials, and representatives of maquilas, in order to follow-up on investigations, encourage real collaboration between the Government at all three levels and civil society, and offer concrete recommendations on ways to prevent these crimes. 

92.          The Special Rapporteur also received information on the strong support given by the National Women’s Institute, working closely with the Governor of Chihuahua, for the creation of two Inter-institutional Panels for Dialogue (Mesa Interinstitucional de Diálogo) with the participation of representatives of different agencies of the State of Chihuahua and of civil society.  According to the report provided by the PGJE in October of 2002, the first has recently been set up to provide inter-institutional input and support in the development of public policy concerning crime and violence, including violence against women, and seeks to incorporate broad participation.  With respect to the participation of the health sector being sought, the PGJE expressly mentioned the creation of the Center for Attention to Women in Situations of Violence as an important initiative to provide services to victims of violence.  Other links were being established with the education, business, academic and civil society sectors.  The Commission and its Special Rapporteur recognize these efforts to create new spaces for dialogue and action with the participation of civil society, and look forward to receiving updated information on plans of action with specific goals, timetables and evaluation components. 

93.          The Commission and its Special Rapporteur also received information about the October, 2002 establishment of a Technical Juridical Panel incorporating the participation of diverse State and non-state representatives, namely the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of the Government of Chihuahua, the Mayor of Ciudad Juárez, organizations of civil society, family members of victims and the INMUJERES.  While the Panel is still defining its methods of work, initial reports suggested that its objectives would include informing family members on advances in investigation, defining further lines of investigation and discussing situations requiring measures of protection.  Among the positive points already included in the regulations for its functioning is the issuance of a bulletin to inform the public of the results of each meeting.[27]  With respect to the remaining definition of the work plan, nongovernmental sources have expressed concern that, while reviewing case files had been among the initial goals, the PGJE has raised objections to allowing access to those files.  The Commission and its Special Rapporteur are anxious to receive updated information on the definition of a work plan for this Panel, with concrete goals, timetables and mechanisms for evaluation.  The Commission and its Special Rapporteur consider that the establishment of this Panel, with the inclusion of diverse representatives of the State sector, as well as two representatives of civil society and family members of the victims, is a very valuable initiative that holds tremendous potential.

          94.          Reports indicate that the State of Chihuahua has issued requests for technical assistance from other countries.  Apart from the training courses referred to above by the FBI, and collaboration in certain narcotrafficking investigation activities, however, the Commission has received no information about subsequent collaboration from foreign institutions. 

          95.          Efforts to take an integral approach to the situation of violence in Ciudad Juárez are very much needed.  The Commission and its Special Rapporteur value the opening of new spaces for dialogue and collaboration in the search for solutions to these problems.  These have the capacity, if properly utilized, to contribute to achieving concrete advances.  To date, however, efforts toward multisectoral collaboration have been hindered by a number of fundamental barriers.  First, the terms of reference for these efforts continue to require clarification.  That is to say, while many of those involved have invested themselves in these efforts with the aim of incorporating the perspective of gender and adopting integral approaches, other functionaries persist in focusing on these crimes as isolated instances.  It is worth noting that many authorities in Chihuahua, from the State Prosecutor on down, tend to refer to the so-called “serial” crimes as the serious problem to be addressed, indicating expressly or implicitly that the other crimes have been dealt with sufficiently. 

          96.          Second, responses to these crimes need to devote more attention to involving women and men and the perspective of gender in all aspects of work.  In this regard, during her visit, the Special Rapporteur perceived some division in roles based on gender.  She met with men in relation to official approaches to public security and the administration of justice (with the exception of the Special Prosecutor assigned to the killing of women).  With some notable exceptions, she generally met with women in relation to the approach of civil society to the killings and the pursuit of justice, and the provision of services to victims.  Further, the family members who have come forward to press for justice have, in most cases, been mothers, sisters and other female relatives.  While both men and women have made important contributions to efforts to combat these crimes, further attention to the incorporation of the perspective of gender would enhance those contributions.

97.          Third, responses to the situation of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez are characterized by an extreme level of politicization.  This politicization, based on party politics, was evident to some degree in virtually every meeting the Special Rapporteur held during her visit.  It significantly restricts the ability of these initiatives to accomplish their objectives. 

98.          Fourth, efforts to amplify responses to the situation and to incorporate the participation of other sectors have yet to incorporate sufficient mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation and follow-up to ensure effective results – first and foremost that women are more secure in Ciudad Juárez. 


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[4] See Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Chihuahua, “Investigación sobre Mujeres Víctimas de Homicida Múltiple en Ciudad Juárez,” presented during the Special Rapporteur’s visit.

[5] Id.

[6] These two examples are drawn from information received by the Rapporteur during her visit.  See also, “Informe de actividades de la Comisión Especial de la H. Cámara de Diputados, para que conozca y de seguimiento a las investigaciones relacionadas con las homicidios de las mujeres perpetrados en Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua”, notes of interviews of November 29, 2002.

[7] Red Ciudadana de No Violencia y Dignidad Humana, “Reporte Ciudadano sobre el femenicidio en Juárez,” 6 March 2002, p. 4.

[8] One analysis based on death certificates and other data concluded that 249 men were killed between 1990-1993, while 942 men were killed between 1994-1997 – a 300% increase.  According to the same study, 20 women were killed between 1990 and 1993, and 143 women were killed between 1994-1997, a 600% increase.  See Cheryl A. Howard, Ph.D., Georgina Martínez, M.A., Zulma y. Mendez, M.A., “Women, Violence and Politics,” presentation to the LASA, March 17, 2000.

[9] One analysis concluded that the rate from men in Ciudad Juárez was 47.1, and for women 7.9 (per 100,000).  The rate for Tijuana, for example, also located along the northern border, characterized by a strong maquila presence and with roughly the same population, for the same period was 34.9 for men and 2.4 for women.  The rate for the United Mexican States as a whole for the period was 28.2 for men and 3.1 for females.  Id

[10] Subsequent information prepared in the detainees’ defense refers to these burns as electrical burns.

[11] Alto a la impunidad: ni una muerta más, “Informe Temático: Asesinatos de mujeres en Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua,” presented to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, August, 2002, at p. 7.

[12]See, for example, Mensaje del Secretario de Salud, doctor Julio Frenk Mora, durante la reunión “Violencia sobre la Salud de las Mujeres”, que se realizó el 2 de agosto de 2001; see also, “Violencia en Casa: Guía informativa para su prevención y su atención”, realizada por la Comisión de Equidad y Género de la Cámara de Diputados Mexicana y por el Instituto Nacional de Mujeres de la Presidencia de la República de México. 

In its report “Violencia Intrafamiliar, Documento Metodológico y Resultados” published in 2000, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática indicated that the results of its survey showed that, of the 17,124,812 people living in the metropolitan area of Mexico City, 5,821,697 were living in homes marked by violence, most frequently emotional violence, intimidation, and physical and sexual violence.  These references are cited in the report “Programas Nacionales para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer en México,” of October 2000, prepared by Teresa Ulloa Ziáurriz, Mónica del Val Locht and Jorge González Santana, for the project Violence in the Americas being carried out by the Inter-American Commission of Women of the OAS with the ICCLR and ILANUD.

[13] Id.

[14] See María Rivera, “Crecen las denuncias, pero aún es insuficiente el combate a la violencia contra la mujer,” La Jornada, 8 de marzo de 2002 (referring to the study in question).

[15] See, e.g., Armando Rodríguez, “Matan a 18 en 10 meses,” El Diario, 10 de octubre de 2001 (reporting on these two killings, among others), or the report by the same journalist in the January 3, 2002 edition of El Diario “Las mataron sus esposos: En dos meses, cuatro mujeres han sido victimadas por sus parejas.”

[16] The Special Rapporteur received information about this killing during her visit.  See also, Esther Chávez Cano, “Una muerte anunciada,” El Diario, 27 de diciembre de 2001 (the author of the column is the Director of Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis); Luz del Carmen Sosa, Casa Amiga: exigen castigo para homicida,” El Diario, 21 de enero de 2002 (reporting on demands that Medina be arrested, prosecuted and punished).

[17] Rosa Elvira Vargas, “Se suma el titular del UNIFEM al clamor de justicia por las muertas de Juárez,” La Jornada, 4 de diciembre de 2002, versión on line (reporting on the Director’s visit in Ciudad Juárez, and quoting her as to why violence against women had increased in that locality).

[18] See, for example, the written presentation of “Alto a la impunidad: ni una muerta más”, presented before the Commission during the March, 2002 hearing; Reporte Ciudadano sobre el Femenicidio en Juárez prepared by the Red Ciudadana de No Violencia y Dignidad Humana, 6 March, 2002, at pp. 3-5.

[19] See for example, the paid advertisement placed in El Diario on February 10, 2002 by four local bar associations (at p. 6A). 

[20] See, for example, “Desaliento, denominador común en Ciudad Juárez,” Proceso, 15 Feb. 2002, proceso.com.mx.

[21] See Victor Ballinas, “Periodistas de Ciudad Juárez denuncian hostigamiento official,” La Jornada, 8 Feb. 2002, jornada.unam.mx.

[22] Alto a la impunidad: ni una muerta más, written presentation before the IACHR, March, 2002.

[23] See Letter from the Secretary of Government of Chihuahua to the Special Rapportuer of February 11, 2002.

[24] It should be noted that, prior to the establishment of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, a Specialized Unit had been established within the PGJE in 1996 for the investigation of these killings and of disappearances of women.

[25] In October of 2002, local officials reported that the DNA laboratory was still not functional, but was 80% installed.  Unofficial information from February of 2003 indicated that it was still not functioning.

[26] The basis for classification and “resolution” has raised doubts in other sectors.  For example, while the authorities of Ciudad Juárez have classified a number of the killings as linked to narcotrafficking, at the national level the PGR indicated that it lacked sufficient probative elements or data to link those crimes to narcotrafficking, and was therefore unable to intervene in their investigation.  See letter of José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, Specialized Unit for Organized Crime of the PGR, to Sergio Antonio Martínez Garza, General Secretary of Government of Chihuahua, of March 7, 2002.

[27] See “Reglamento de funcionamiento de la Mesa de Diálogo, para el seguimiento técnico-jurídico de las investigaciones de los casos de homicidio de mujeres en Ciudad Juárez, Chih.,” October 8, 2002.