(Ottawa, April 28, 2015) The mother of one of 46 students from a teacher-training college in the Mexican community of Ayotzinapa who were killed or forcibly disappeared during a September 2014 attack by Mexican police and gunmen will testify before Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights this afternoon, along with a surviving student and a lawyer for the families of the victims.
Their goal is to make visible a disturbing pattern of grave abuses perpetrated by state security forces, and call for attention to serious failures on the part of government authorities to protect human rights in Mexico, a country that Canada has designated a so-called “safe country”.
The members of the Mexican delegation who will testify to Canadian MPs are:
- Hilda Legideño Vargas, whose son Jorge Antonio was forcibly disappeared in the September 2014 attack;
- Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena, a student leader at the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college;
- Isidoro Vicario Aguilar, a Me’phaa indigenous lawyer with the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre, an award-winning NGO that represents families affected by the September 2014 attack and a prior attack in December 2011, in which two other Ayotzinapa students were killed.
The three witnesses will testify to members of the MP Sub-committee on International Human Rights from 1 to 2 PM on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.
Their appearance before the Subcommittee follows a tour through BC, Ontario, and Quebec to raise awareness about the attack on the Ayotzinapa students and an ongoing climate of danger for those who speak up about human rights violations in Mexico. The tour is supported by more than 50 organizations in Canada.
The Mexican government is hoping that people will be distracted by the Christmas holidays and will forget the disappeared, particularly the search for the #42 #Ayotzinapa students. Do not let the Mexican government do that. Send the following message to twitter @EPN @PresidenciaMX “Search for the disappeared. Bring them back alive. ” Here it is a video of the families of the #42 missing students describing how their Christmas is going to be this year.
From Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre (September 29th, 2014)
On September 26, 2014, three students from the Rural Teacher Training School of the town of Ayotzinapa were among six people murdered extrajudicially by the municipal police of Iguala, Guerrero. This is a continuation of violence against the students of this school. In 2011, two students from this school were victims of extrajudicial killings during a public demonstration for better and inclusive education and job opportunities.
On September 26th, 2014, 80 students from the Rural Teacher Training School of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero boarded three buses to travel to the capital of the state after collecting funds for their underfunded school. Municipal police vehicles cut these buses off and started shooting at the passengers without warning, killing and injuring several others students.
The effects of the crisis on unemployment, wages and benefits have put Mexicans in a situation of economic insecurity. Disappearances complicate the economic circumstances of a victim’s family. The disappeared contributed with an important share of the household income through wages and social benefits such as health care and government housing assistance in the National Workers Housing Fund Institute (Instituto Nacional para el Fomento de la Vivienda de los Trabajadores or INFONAVIT). Families of the disappeared cannot receive any pension payments because the whereabouts of the victim is unknown, and therefore she or he cannot be declared dead. Also, the situation of uncertainty and worry for their loved ones has impacted families’ physical and emotional health. Health expenses therefore add to the costs of investigation and litigation in the absence of state authorities’ investigations in the context of economic and physical insecurity in the country.
If families want to retain social benefits and receive some form of pension, they have to apply for the presumption of death of the victim, which takes up to six year at least to complete. This impacts families emotionally because once the person is presumed dead, investigations end. Thus, families feel they betrayed their disappeared by having to choose access to basic services over looking for their missing relative.
Press release from FUNDEM May 2014.
On February 2013, the Ministry of the Interior (Gobernación) presented a list with 26,121 people disappeared. On May 2014, the National Commission of Human Rights indicated to the Senate that 24,800 people were disappeared. In the same month, the State Attorney’s Office said that only 13,195 cases remained in the list of disappearances. Latter, the Ministry of the Interior said to the Senate that only 8,000 cases of disappearances that occurred during the past presidential administration remained unsolved. In addition, authorities continue to be silent about the number of disappearances taking place under the current presidential administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). The Senate did not even raise questions regarding the conflicting numbers presented by different government agencies, failing to fulfill its function of check-and-balances in human rights issues.
Since 2011, FUNDEM has asked the federal government to create a National Registry of Disappeared Persons. Until today, the number of cases of disappearance remains unclear and the silence of state authorities regarding the methodology used to disclose such numbers adds to the already existing confusion. This raises the question: How many cases of disappearance is the government in fact investigating?
Fuerzas Unidas Por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México.
Families of the disappeared march from Torreon to Saltillo Coahuila to demand state authorities to follow adequate protocols in search operations (such as preserving evidence, avoid contamination of search locations, etc) (Photos by Itzel)