The Inter-American Court of Human Rights delivered a historic decision in the case of González, et al. (“Campo Algodonero”) vs. Mexico. This is the first case in which an international tribunal has found Mexico guilty for the murders of women that have occurred in Ciudad Juárez in northern Mexico. The Court decided in favor of the murdered women, Claudia Ivette González, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, and Laura Berenice Ramos Monárrez, whose bodies were found in an area known as “Campo Algodonero” (Cotton Field) together with five other victims.
Ariel Dulitzky, director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, served as member of the legal team on the case. He explained that the Inter-American tribunal considered that Mexico did not adopt measures of protection and effective prevention from these crimes, despite the fact that the Mexican authorities, both at the federal level and from the State of Chihuahua, knew of the existence of a pattern of violence that has killed hundreds of women and girls.
The Center for Women’s Comprehensive Development acted as the common representative of the families of the three victims. The family of Laura Berenice Ramos Monarrez was forced to flee Mexico on account of the threats and harassment that they received as a consequence of their pursuit for justice. The Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law represented the Monarrez family in their successful application for asylum in the United States.
The case of Campo Algodonero is representative of the situation that exists in Juárez. Multiple sources have indicated that since 1993 the rate of murders of women increased extraordinarily in Ciudad Juárez. Owing to the fact that the city exists in a generalized climate of violence, different studies indicate that the number of murders of women, in comparison to the number of murders of men in Ciudad Juárez, is significantly greater than the rate in cities in similar situations, and is greater than the national average. More than 300 women, most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, with many beaten or the victims of sexual violence, have been killed in the last fifteen years. The answer that authorities have given in regard to these crimes has been seriously deficient, with the great majority of murders remaining in impunity. In the process before the Court, the mothers of the victims insisted that the response of the Mexican authorities to the demands of the families of the victims fluctuated between indifference and hostility.
According to Dulitzky, Mexico should demonstrate its commitment to human rights and to the reestablishment of the rule of law in Ciudad Juárez. Dulitzky added that the violence and the systematic and widespread impunity in the border city are extremely serious. The Inter-American Court’s decision is a new call to attention, and the full implementation of the reparations ordered by the tribunal is a legal and moral imperative that will allow justice to be brought to the victims and lay the foundation for the necessary changes in Ciudad Juárez.
Ariel Dulitzky, Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-232-1256