Write-a-thon Series: The Women of Atenco

November 10, 2009

This posting is part of our Write-a-Thon Cases Series. For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/

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You’ve read before on this blog about the women of Atenco, who were arrested without explanation during a police operation in response to protests by a local peasant organization in San Salvador Atenco, in Mexico State. Dozens of them were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence by the police officers who arrested them.

In the case of one of the women, Bárbara Italia Méndez, police officers pulled her hair, beat her, and forced her into a state police vehicle with her shirt pulled over her head. She was made to lie on top of other detainees, and during the journey to the prison, police officers sexually assaulted her repeatedly.


More than three years later, these brave survivors are still waiting for justice. None of the officials responsible for their abuse have been held accountable. One of the women was able to identify her attacker, and he was tried on the watered-down charge of “libidinous acts” and sentenced to time served plus a small fine. He appealed the ruling, and was acquitted, thus avoiding even that weak punishment.

In October, 2006, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission issued a recommendation calling for criminal investigations into abuses committed by police in Atenco, but the recommendation has not been implemented effectively. Later, in February 2009, the Mexican Supreme Court issued a decision stating that human rights abuses had in fact occurred in Atenco, and the women of Atenco still haven’t seen justice.

Federal authorities had conducted an investigation that resulted in a list of 34 names of police officers who were suspected of being responsible for the abuses, but the federal authorities recently concluded that these individuals should be prosecuted at the state level. Now is the time to push for real justice and ask the Governor of Mexico State not to let this impunity continue.

With help from Morgan Brescia, AIUSA Campaign for Individuals at Risk