MEXICO CITY – A group of women who were beaten, wrongfully detained and sexually assaulted 11 years ago during a violent police crackdown on a demonstration in the central Mexican towns of San Salvador Atenco and Texcoco are placing their hopes for justice in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Since the May 3-4, 2006, crackdown that left two dead and 217 arrested, including 50 female demonstrators, the fight for justice has been all-consuming, Norma Jimenez, one of 11 women who brought their case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, told EFE.
Jimenez said that after being arrested; sexually, physically and psychologically tortured; and spending a year in prison (she and other women were prosecuted on charges related to disturbing the peace) she returned at age 23 to her visual arts classes at university.
“I don’t know how I managed to go another year to school; everyone knew about it. They all treated me differently. They talked about me, about what happened,” she said.
That made her aware of how victims in Mexico are stigmatized and end up shouldering the blame for the crimes they suffered.
Italia Mendez recalls that she and the other victims confronted taboos and gender roles by being outspoken about what had happened to them, though noting that many criticized their attitude and accused them of not acting like victims.
On May 3, 2006, authorities’ violent eviction of flower vendors from a market in the town of Texcoco led to a clash between police and machete-wielding residents of nearby San Salvador Atenco.
State and federal police arrived in force the following day to retake the town. Two protesters were killed and 50 others wounded in the ensuing confrontation, while dozens of women detained at the scene reported suffering sexual abuse at the hands of the cops.
The then-governor of Mexico state, Enrique Peña Nieto, who is now the country’s president, ordered the crackdown on the protesters in San Salvador Atenco,
In 2009 the Mexican Supreme Court found that serious abuses had taken place in the operation, yet the case has been mired in impunity.
Last September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that Mexico’s investigation has been insufficient, saying in a report that it found evidence of severe acts of physical and psychological violence, including diverse forms of sexual violence, against the 11 women.
It also referred the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is expected to hold hearings in the second half of 2017.
Patricia Torres, one of the other Atenco victims, told EFE that she was somewhat tired but hopeful that the true version of what happened on May 4, 2006, will finally come out.
The complainants will be appearing before the San Jose, Costa Rica-based court to demand acknowledgment that excessive use of public force was used, clarify the events of that day and try to ensure that justice is finally served.