After over four years of detention based on unjust convictions, twelve Mexican activists were ordered released last week following a ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court that admitted that the activists had never been granted a fair trial. They had been arrested for allegedly kidnapping police officers during protests in San Salvador Atenco in May 2006 during which police officers violently abused both men and women for their activism. While it is wonderful that Mexico’s judiciary has freed these twelve activists, much more still needs to be done for justice to be served in the events surrounding the Atenco protests.
“This welcome move by the Supreme Court shows that state prosecutors and judges in Mexico State relied on the denial of due process as well as illegal and fabricated evidence to secure the conviction and imprisonment of the accused,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s Mexico researcher.
Simply releasing the activists is not enough: Mexican authorities need to take their actions a step further and end impunity in their country by prosecuting the officers responsible for committing crimes against protestors in May 2006 along with those who misused the justice system to secure convictions of the twelve protestors.
One of Amnesty International USA’s Special Focus cases is centered around the female victims of police abuse during the Atenco protests (see the Women of Atenco case page). Federal authorities actually conducted an investigation that resulted in a list of 34 names of police officers who were suspected of being responsible for the sexual assault and torture of the women in the aftermath of the protests, but more than four years after the events, neither these officers, nor any of the senior officials who failed to stop or prevent the abuses, have been held accountable.
Hopefully, the release of the twelve activists is just the beginning of the government’s acceptance of responsibility for the case, and the beginning of the end for the impunity that has pervaded Mexico’s justice system. Amnesty International will continue to pressure the federal government of Mexico to protect the human rights of its citizens, and this necessarily includes that Mexico ends impunity for police officers.