On the afternoon of June 9th, 14 men, including six armed municipal policemen and a state court official, arrived at a shelter that works to protect women and children at grave risk due to extreme violence in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, northern Mexico. They demanded entry into the shelter, claiming they were searching for a girl who had been kidnapped. They carried with them official court documents, none of which referred to the women’s shelter. The men were denied entry because the shelter’s protocol strictly prohibits men on the premises in an effort to ensure the protection and confidentiality of the women who have sought refuge.
The men repeatedly issued violent threats against the staff at the shelter. One police officer pointed his gun at the coordinator and said, “You’re going to regret this, you’ll get yourself into trouble, it’s better if you cooperate or we will push down the doors and break the locks.” Following repeated threats and fearing for their lives, the staff eventually allowed the men to enter the shelter. They ransacked the shelter, overturning furniture and searching under beds. Once they were satisfied the girl was not there, they left.
This violent breach of the rights of the women seeking protection at this shelter is especially dangerous because many of them have fled violent partners, including various municipal policemen. The forced entry of these policemen has jeopardized the women’s safety by revealing their location and exposing them to potential future reprisals.
This case does not mark the first time the rights of women have been neglected in Mexico’s recent history. In 2006 in San Salvador Atenco, more than 45 women were arrested without explanation during a peaceful protest. Dozens of them were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence by the police officers who arrested them, and those responsible have yet to be brought to justice.
Take action! to ensure the policemen responsible for the raid of the women’s shelter are brought to justice. Write to the Mexican authorities calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the forced entry into the shelter and urging them to protect the confidentiality and security of the women who have sought refuge.
Rachel Good, Individuals at Risk Campaign, contributed to this blog post. This posting is part of our Urgent Action Series.
Members of the Urgent Action Network provide an effective and rapid response by sending letters, e-mails, and faxes directly to those who have the power to stop the violations. For more information visit: www.amnestyusa.org/uan