By: Ian Bertschausen
On September 17, 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding human rights violations that took place over ten years prior. On May 3 and 4 of 2006, police in the Texoco and Salvador Atenco municipalities in Mexico State detained and sexually tortured eleven women: Ariana Selvas Gómez, Georgina Edith Rosales Gutiérrez, María Patricia Romero Hernández, Norma Aidé Jiménez Osorio, Claudia Hernández Martínez, Bárbara Italia Méndez Moreno, Ana María Velasco Rodríguez, Yolanda Muñoz Diosdada, Cristina Sánchez Hernández, Patricia Torres Linares and Suhelen Gabriela Cuevas Jaramillo. The women were raped, while they and others were beaten, penetrated with metal objects, made to perform oral sex on multiple officers, robbed, humiliated, and made to sing aloud to entertain the police.
The torture these women endured has had lasting effects; María Patricia Romero Hernández explained: “I have not overcome it, not even a little. It is something that haunts me and you don’t survive. It stays with you.” Yet, the trauma did not end there. The Commission established not only that the detention was illegal and arbitrary, but further that the Mexican State did not comply with its obligation to investigate the acts with due diligence and in a reasonable time. Ana María Velasco Rodríguez said that “the hardest, most enraging part of this entire process [has been] watching those who attacked us go free.” In the more than ten years since, not a single person has been convicted of any crimes related to the assaults in Atenco. Despite numerous offers to settle over the years, the women have steadfastly refused and instead sought justice and a public reckoning of what they endured, and at whose hands.
At the center of the inquiry has been current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto. In 2006, at the time of the assaults, Peña Nieto was the governor of Mexico State and ordered the crackdown that led to the detention of the eleven women. Peña Nieto, Mexico’s most unpopular president in twenty-five years, has been under fire in recent months for a variety of reasons, including surging murder rates, entrenched corruption, economic stagnation, his embrace of Donald Trump, and his government’s bungling of the investigation into the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students at a teachers’ college. Even more than ten years later, human rights concerns persist; one civil society organization estimates that some 10,000 people are tortured annually in Mexico.
As the Inter-American Court of Human Rights conducts its investigation, Peña Nieto will be under increased scrutiny. After more than a decade of seeking justice intra- and internationally, the eleven women have renewed hope that the justice they seek will be attained, and those responsible held accountable.