Date: April 15, 2018

The omissions and negligence that leave femicides in Mexico unpunished

Translated by El Profe for Borderland Beat from Animal Politico

Women of different ages concentrated on the Angel of Independence on March 24 to place an offering in memory to Nefertiti and Grecia Camacho, 16 and 14 years, killed by municipal police in Rio Blanco, Veracruz. They also denounced the latest murders and attacks against women and demanded justice for the murder of Kenni, a woman attacked by her ex-husband in the commercial plaza, Reforma 222.  PHOTO: ADOLFO VLADIMIR/CUARTOSCURO.COM

Data collected on judicial action in cases of feminicide registered in the last four years at the national level allow us to document a road of impunity composed of resistance, omissions, negligence and acts that violate the rights of victims, according to a report by the National Observatory of Feminicide. 

by Andrea Vega

On October 4, 2010, at approximately 9:30 am, Rosa Diana Suárez Torres was alone in the kitchen of her home, in the municipality of Atizapán de Zaragoza, State of Mexico, when she heard her door opening. It was Gilberto, her ex-boyfriend, who demanded she give him her cell phone. Faced with Rosa's refusal, he grabbed her by the neck and began to strangle her. Only because she handed him the phone, he released her, but threatened her with death.

Rosa went to the public prosecutor's office to report the facts and request a restraining order against Gilberto. The official who attended said that "that only existed in the United States." Nothing was done. Weeks later, on December 31, Rosa was murdered by Gilberto, who left her body in an area that serves as a playground for children on Avenida Felipe Angeles, in Atizapán de Zaragoza.

Although on the same day the investigation file was opened, it was not until eight months later, on August 19, 2011, that the arrest warrant issued against Gilberto was executed. At that time he was prosecuted as probably responsible for perpetrating the crime of homicide, since at the time of the events there was no criminal type called “femicide.” The murderer of a woman was sentenced to sixty-seven years and six months in prison.

After the trial, Victorina and José Diego, parents of Rosa Diana, filed a complaint against the public servants of the Attorney General of the State of Mexico, in the face of the omissions and negligence they incurred prior to the femicide of their daughter. The only thing they have achieved so far is a warning for officials.

The case of Rosa Diana is part of the record that predates the 8,904 murders of women that the State Attorney's Offices and State Prosecutor's Offices have registered in the last four years, from 2014 to 2017. Only 30 percent of these cases, 1,886 murders, have been investigated as femicides and of these, very few will reach a conviction.

This is considered by organizations and specialists in Mexico who have denounced the lack of punishment for violence against women and the lack of a public policy to prevent such crimes as generating a kind of "permission to kill.” And it is based on data. According to the report Implementation of the Criminal Type of Femicide in Mexico: Challenges Accrediting Reasons of Gender 2014-2017, from the National Observatory of Feminicide (OCNF), murders of women rose 52% in those three years.

This is due to a road of impunity with eight components that the Observatory has identified and that Anayeli Pérez Garrido, legal adviser of the organization, explained on Wednesday in the presentation of the report where 14 cases are analyzed that are crossed with data from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP):

1.- Resistance to research for reasons of gender 

According to the case studies and the data of the SNSP, the OCNF found that there is resistance to initiate investigations from the feminicide hypothesis or to consider accredited the reasons of gender during the development of the investigations or in the beginning of the processes.

Proof of this is the recurrence to dismiss as likely responsible the romantic partners of the murdered women, instead of identifying them from the beginning as suspicious especially when there is a history of violence or it is documented that they were the last people to have had contact with the victim.

This happened in the cases of Mariana Lima Buendía, Wendy Hernández González and Lesvy Berlín Rivera Osorio , in which despite the history of violence in the victim-victimizer relationship, this was not considered enough to establish a hypothesis of a possible femicide.

The report also documents that the investigative files are initiated from culpable homicide (which has a lower penalty than femicide), despite traces of hateful crimes in the bodies, as in the cases of Karen Sánchez or Victoria Pamela Salas. Other cases are classified as suicide, despite the presence of degrading injuries or signs of sexual violence, as in the murders of Mariana Lima Buendía, María Fernanda Rico Vargas, Yang Kyung María Jun Borrego, Nadia Muciño Márquez and Lesvi Berlin, all documented in the report.

2.- Revictimization of victims and families 

This happens from diffusion in the media of images and sensitive information about the murdered women or when the relatives are directly questioned about the activities of the young women, a bad practice that exposes sensitive data and can give notice to the likely responsible or generate research hypotheses with strong gender stereotypes.

The revictimization was evident in the cases of Wendy Hernández and Mayra Abigail Guerrero and Lesvy Berlin, in which "it was the own attorney's office from its areas of social communication that disseminated sensitive information about the investigation, which also stigmatized the victim and was based only on the saying of the aggressor," said the lawyer of the OCNF.

3.- Mishandling of the place of discovery and loss of evidence 

This component implies a lack of due diligence, and a sentence of anticipated impunity, in which nothing is gathered nor taken up and the chain of custody of fundamental evidence for the investigation is not guaranteed and evidence is even lost.

Examples of this are the cases of Mariana Lima, María Fernanda, Yang Kyung, in which what was lost was: rope, cord, the scarf or the belt with which they had allegedly committed suicide, or the case of Wendy, where all evidence was lost, or that of Mayra Abigail, in which condoms were gathered by the expert authority, but did not appear for the expert reports.

4.- Serious inconsistencies in expert opinions 

In many cases, Pérez Garrido explains, there are contradictions among experts: "the forensic doctor gives an opinion and the criminologist says otherwise. We have also found expertise with deficient or null methodologies, proof of this is the psychological necropsy, which serves rather to reinforce gender stereotypes against women, even to affirm that they committed suicide," as in the case of Lesvy, of which already the attorney general's office acknowledged that it was a feminicide and not a suicide, as it was classified at the beginning.

In addition, the expert reports do not describe or sometimes minimize degrading injuries or analyze them in the wrong way. "There is a case where human bites are identified in the body of the victim, but the authority determines that they are cadaverous fauna; of that level are the inconsistencies," the lawyer stressed.

5.- Lack of context analysis 

The standards of feminicide research determined by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and confirmed by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation contemplate the context in cases of feminicide as a standard, but in the investigations it is omitted. For example, in the cases of Nadia Alejandra, Mariana Lima, Maria Fernanda, Yang Kyung and Lesvy Berlin it is concluded that they were suicides due to the fact that the context of violence in which they were immersed was not looked at carefully.

In other cases, the context of the area is not analyzed. "There are cases linked to organized crime that require another level of investigation. In states with high crime, Anayeli Pérez points out, "there should be a unit of analysis and context, because it happens that the public prosecutor, who is a lawyer, falls short of his investigation. It is necessary to form teams with experts and experts in political and economic analysis, the structure of the police or military bodies and organized crime, as well as anthropological or sociological analysis of the area"

6.- The rights of the victims are not guaranteed 

There is no effective participation of the families of the victims in the investigations, whose rights are violated because they are not explained how the investigation is going, or because they are denied copies of the files and are not assigned legal advice to have an adequate technical defense. They are not given psychological or medical attention after the fact, nor of a psychosocial type to navigate the judicial process with less impact, and, of course, there is no integral reparation of the damage.

7.- There is no effective mechanism for monitoring due diligence to evaluate and, if necessary, sanction public servants

"Because of the failures and omissions in the investigation, no one has a sanction, neither the prosecutor who can be linked to criminal networks, nor the expert who lost the condoms, nor the police who did not protect the area, nobody," said Pérez Garrido.

This, despite the fact that systematic irregularities and omissions present in most cases reveal the need for effective mechanisms to supervise investigations, the technical capacities of public officials, and the punishment of public servants. "In one of the cases, that of Rosa Diana, the family fought since 2010 to obtain a sanction, because her daughter was murdered thanks to the fact that a public prosecutor did not grant her a protection order and then the feminicide was carried out, but the official only received a warning."

8.- Lack of gender perspective in sentences 

It is common to see judgments discrediting violence exerted on the bodies of women due to gender reasons, for the use of interpretations based on stereotypes or opinions without an objective basis. "In the case of Karen Johana -the lawyer said- the second room recognizes that the murder is carried out for these reasons, but argues that it is independent of the feeling that the active subject may have, such as hatred or contempt, and then concludes that it can be feminicide."

To test the wide gap in the route of impunity, the report of the OCNF shows that 13 states do not have an adequate criminal type to accredit this crime, and in the other 19, although feminicide is considered, the typing complies only partially with the required characteristics or there are no action protocols for investigations, as in the case of Baja California Sur, Durango, Michoacán, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Tlaxcala.

This publication was made possible thanks to the support of the Kellogg Foundation.