Human rights activist killed in Mexico

January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Mourners at the coffin of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz: Reuters

A call to arms here over the murder of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, the Mexican activist who has fought tirelessly for almost two years to bring the killer of her daughter to justice in the most violent city in Mexico. Now a suspect in the killing of the mother as well as the daughter, Sergio Barazza confessed to murdering Ortiz’s teenage daughter Rubi, whose burned body was found in July 2009, but was still released on bail.

The statement from women’s campaigning group AWID is below to give you more background to this sad case and the situation for women in Mexico.

“The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition joins the community of activists in Mexico and internationally in denouncing the killing of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz on 16 December 2010 in front of the state capitol in Chihuahua city, Mexico.

A women human rights defender, Marisela had been peacefully campaigning for a week in front of the governor’s office for a conviction in the killing of her daughter, Rubi Marisol Frayre Escobedo, whose burned and dismembered remains were found in a trash bin in the border city of Ciudad Juarez on 18 June 2009 after she had been missing for nearly a year.

A security video recording shows masked men pulling up in a car in front of the governor’s office. One appeared to exchange words with Marisela, who was holding a vigil outside. She tried to flee by running across the street, but the gunman chased her down and shot her in the head, said Jorge Gonzalez, special state prosecutor for crime prevention. Marisela was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she died within minutes.

Marisela launched a campaign pressing for the conviction of Sergio Barraza who had been the main suspect in the killing of her 17-year-old daughter. Barraza was acquitted by a three-judge panel in April for lack of evidence. The three judges were suspended pending investigation of Marisela’s death after a group of demonstrators gathered outside the Interior Department in Mexico City last Friday, 17 December, to protest the killing and the miscarriage of justice in the acquittal of Barraza.

A tireless fighter for justice for her daughter and also a leader of Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for Our Daughters), Marisela had been speaking out against the pattern of femicides in the city. “This struggle is not only for my daughter,” she said through a megaphone during one of the marches. “Let’s not allow one more young woman to be killed in this city.” She and other women human rights defenders have been receiving intimidating phone calls and threats for demanding accountability for the killings and abductions of women in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua.

For close to two decades now, a wave of femicide — a progression of gender-based acts of violence against women that range from emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse through battery, torture, rape, prostitution, sexual assault, child abuse, female infanticide, genital mutilation, and domestic violence have been occurring in Ciudad Juárez and then spreaded to the State Chihuahua within a broader context of escalating violence in the region involving organized crime gangs, drug cartels and Mexican security forces. Most of the perpetrators remain nameless and at large and state apathy, corruption, and inept investigations have made people suspicious of governmental efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

We urge the Mexican authorities to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the death of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, to arrest the convicted murderer of her daughter, Rubi Marisol Frayre Escobedo, and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international human rights standards. Having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981, the Mexican government is also obliged to take appropriate and effective measures to overcome all forms of gender-based violence, whether by public or private act, and to provide effective complaints procedures and remedies, including compensation and reparation for victims of femicide and other forms of violence against women. In December 2009, the Inter American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling against the Mexican State for the disappearances, sexual violence and homicides of women in Ciudad Juárez and recognised the harassment and systematic aggression against the families and the defenders that are demanding justice for the victims in these cases, condemning the government for not guaranteeing their protection, and for the prevailing impunity and for the lack of reparation for the victims.

Under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Mexican government is primarily responsible for the safety and security of all human rights defenders that have been advocating for justice in this case and all the unsolved cases of femicide in the country. The Mexican government must ensure that all human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders carrying out their legitimate work in defence of women’s human rights to be free from any form of gender-based violence, are able to operate free of any restrictions and reprisals.”

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