(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.
Nine days after the grave human rights violations against the students of the Rural Teacher Training School of Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero by police forces of the municipality of Iguala, 43 students are still missing after being detained by members of the local police. The three levels of government of the Mexican state have not fulfilled their obligation in the immediate search for the disappeared with due process and according to international standards.
Tlachinollan Centre, the Guerrero Network of Human Rights Organizations and the Human Rights Centre José Ma. Morelos y Pavón recognize the efforts by the parents of the disappeared students in initiating investigations regarding the disappearance of their loved ones. Yet, the reach of their efforts remains limited because they do not have the necessary resources. Official investigations continue to be ineffective because of the lack of intelligence work prior to the collection of the evidence in the crime scene and the absence of analysis of the information provided by arrested police officers and the pattern of the operations of organized crime in the region.
August 30th is the International Day of the Disappeared. This day raises awareness of the fate of individuals whose whereabouts is unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives in cases of involuntary disappereances because of armed conflict or authoritarian regimes. In preparation for this day, different human rights organizations and families of the disappeared are carrying out different events tomorrow throughout Mexico. Please support the families by sending a twitter to Mexico’s president asking him to #findthedisappeared@PresidenciaMX
If the twitter messages come from abroad, you will giving the families a lot of support.
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.