(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 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.
On February 8th, 2014, the Governor of Coahuila Ruben Moreira and the Assistant Attorney Juan José Yañez informed FUUNDEC and representatives of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and the National Commission of Human rights about the recent search operations for the disappeared taking place in the northern region of the state of Coahuila. The governor affirmed that heavy machinery was not used in the operation, and journalists were not allowed in the search zone. He also mentioned that appropriate protocols for the collection of evidence were followed.
However, appropriate protocols were not followed as it was revealed by a news report released by the American channel Univision. The video shows how evidence was not preserved, the crime scene was not protected and heavy machinery was used. These practices are not compatible with international search protocols and diminish the possibilities of finding the disappeared and arrest those responsible for their disappearance. To the families of the victims, this search operation is more of a public relations strategy rather than a genuine effort to assist the victims and their families. For that reason, FUUNDEC decided to suspend any dialogue and consultation with state and federal authorities until the Governor of Coahuila and the General Commissioner of the Federal Police Enrique Galindo give FUUNDEC an explanation for the lack of appropriate protocol in the search operations.
FUUNDEC also asks international organizations for their assistance in the collection, classification and preservation of evidence that results from search operations. (In press release from January 31, 2014, FUUNDEC suggested the Government of Coahuila to join the Agreement of Collaboration for the Identification of Human Remains with the Attorney-in-General’s Office. This agreement was already used in the massacres of San Fernando and Cadereyta. The goal of this agreement is the creation of a Commission of Forensic Experts led by Argentina’s group of forensic anthropologists, which includes international and national forensic experts).
FUUNDEC is also organizing a “Truth Caravan” to demand results and the implementation of appropriate search protocols to state authorities. The caravan will depart from Torreon Coahuila on February 14th, 2014 and arrive the same day at the city of Saltillo, capital of the state.
Please contact the Governor of Coahuila on twitter @GobDeCoahuila and the Federal police @SSP_mx to show your support to the families in their protest.
May 10 is Mother’s Day in Mexico, but instead of celebrating, many mothers will be marching to protest their children’s disappearance.
Mothers and other family members of the disappeared from around the country gathered in Mexico City for the Second March for National Dignity. More than 5,300 people have disappeared in Mexico since December 2006, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.
On behalf of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams released the following statement:
“Today I, and my sisters at the Nobel Women’s Initiative are honoured to stand together in solidarity with you again this year as you undertake your second march for justice. Your courage and determination to walk, speak, and act for truth and justice inspire us all, and we walk with you until the day your loved ones are returned, justice delivered, and there are no further victims. We join your calls for the Mexican government to take immediate action to investigate all of the disappeared and to end impunity. We thank you for showing us the path, and look forward to sharing it with you.”
The Spanish version of the statement is below:
“En este día, me declaro en solidaridad con todas ustedes, junto con mis hermanas de la Iniciativa de Mujeres Nobel de la Paz, mientras inician su segunda marcha por la dignidad y la justicia. Su valentía y determinación para caminar, denunciar, y actuar para conseguir la verdad y la justicia nos inspira a todas, y caminamos en solidaridad con ustedes hasta el día que sus seres queridos sean devueltos, se logre la justicia, y no haya más víctimas. Nos unimos a sus solicitudes a que el gobierno mexicano tome acción inmediata para investigar todos los casos de personas desparecidas y poner fin a la impunidad. Les agradecemos por mostrarnos el camino, y esperamos compartirlo con ustedes.”