Statement on the Murder of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, women’s human rights defender of Ciudad Juarez
Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, women’s human rights defender of Ciudad Juarez, was murdered while peacefully demanding the compliance of the sentence against the assassin of her daughter, Rubi Marisol Frayre Escobedo.
AWID joins hundreds of women’s organizations in denouncing the killing of women human rights defender Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and demanding justice and accountability from the Mexican Government for this act of violence, as well as uncountable others passed unnoticed und unpunished in the face of law.
“On 16 December 2010, a group of men arrived at the main square in the Chihuahua city, and approached Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, who was holding a peaceful demonstration for 8 days to demand that the authorities take action to detain her daughter Rubi’s assassin. She ran seeking refuge in the Government Palace; at its doors, one of the men shot her in the head, killing her.
The cause of this murder is the culture of discrimination and violence against women that the Mexican State has maintained in Ciudad Juarez and in Chihuahua over the past two decades. In the past 27 months, Marisela’s main activity was to demand justice for her daughter’s murder, denouncing the authorities as accomplices and negligent of femicide, and demanding that the justice system effectively guarantee women’s right to a life free of violence.
On 28 August 2008, faced with her daughter Rubi’s murder, Marisela began the process to denounce the murder and to demand that the authorities act in accordance with the law, as there were clear suspicions about the identity of the assassin.
Rubi Marisol, 19 years of age, was killed in Ciudad Juarez by her partner, Sergio Rafael Barraza, with whom she had a daughter. Barraza Bocanegra was abussive from the beginning of the relationship, increasing the violence until he killed her, burned her body and threw her in a clandestine trash dump and pig cemetery. He then fled to the state of Zacatecas, trusting that after some time his crime would remain unpunished, as are hundreds of other murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. His crime was not investigated, he was later absolved in the courts, and finally, since he had fled, was found guilty in appeals.
Given the grave irregularities and omissions on the part of the authorities involved in the ministerial investigations, Marisela had the tenacity to look for proof about the events, always within the limits of the law. Sergio Rafael Barraza, personally and in her presence, identified the exact place where he had dumped his victim, confessed to his crime, and asked for forgiveness in a hearing during the oral trial that took place. However, on 29 April 2010, the judges Catalina Ochoa Contreras, Netzahualcoyotl Zuñiga Vazquez and Rafael Baudib Jurado decided to acquit him.
The event shocked Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. The victims’ families and the local organizations, alongside national and international spaces and organizations, have acted since 1993 to document femicide, denouncing the negligence and complicity of the authorities, constantly presenting proposals and actions for the State institutions to act in accordance with their obligations with the citizens. Just a few months earlier, there was an important accomplishment towards this aim. In December 2009, the Inter-American Human Rights Court condemned Mexico for the disappearances, sexual violence, and murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. The Mexican State had argued in the Inter-American trial that the new justice system in Chihuahua did not repeat the impunity of prior decades. The assassination of Rubi and the impunity despite the weight of the evidence, demonstrates that the situation in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua was worse than in any previous year.
During 2010, every 24 hours a woman has been killed in the state of Chihuahua for reasons primarily to do with the fact that she is a woman. An unprecedented fact is that the vast majority of the cases are in total impunity.
The Inter-American Court also recognized that there is systematic harassment and aggression against families and defenders who demand justice for these cases, and it condemned Mexico for not guaranteeing their protection, allowing crimes to go unpunished and not compensating for damages.
Marisela Escobedo Ortiz always sought justice in a peaceful manner. She used her own resources, economic and human, to conduct the work that the authorities did not do. She conducted all of the investigations to learn the truth and to find her daughter’s murderer. She walked from Ciudad Juarez to Chihuahua to demand that the state Governor, at that time Jose Reyes Baeza, order the necessary actions to detain the assassin. After Sergio Rafael Barraza was acquitted, she initiated the appeal and managed to get the assassin condemned. However, since he was not held in custody, he fled again and began to threaten Marisela. In July of this year, she moved to the Alameda Central in Mexico City to demand that President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, seek out and arrest the murderer. In September she went to the National Feminist Gathering held in Zacatecas to call on the authorities to search for Barraza, because there were indications that he was in that state. In November of this year, she testified before the International Mission for Women’s Access to Justice.
She always affirmed that as long as Rubi’s assassin, and all assassins of women, remain free, they would continue to commit these crimes. Her consciousness of the need to take measures to ensure that these acts would not repeat themselves led to the creation of an Investigation Commission for Rubi’s case in the state of Chihuahua, with the goal of identifying the errors committed in the process and take action within the justice system to ensure that this impunity not be repeated. However, all of this was paralyzed during the change in state and municipal governments. On 16 December, Marisela was protesting because the new governor, Cesar Duare Jaquez, had not taken any action regarding her daughter – and other women who were disappeared and murdered – but he had mobilized the entire justice apparatus in support of the families of high-level State officials.
The organizations signing this statement will give continuity to Marisela’s voice and demands:
- * In her memory, we say no more simulation by the authorities.
* We demand an end to femicide and impunity.
* We demand compliance with all provisions of the “Campo Algodonero” Judgment, in which the Inter-American Court specifies actions to prevent, investigate and punish appropriately the disappearances, sexual violence and killings against women, and to investigate and punish those who harass and attack the families and organizations who seek justice for those acts.
* Following the Inter-American Court, we demand guarantees for the integrity and security of all the families of victims of disappearances, sexual violence and killings of women, meaning, of femicide. This involves providing comprehensive care, researching the facts and proper compensation for damages, in an urgent manner for the Frayre Escobar family.
* Given the very serious increase in violence against women human rights defenders, we hold the Mexican government responsible for any act against them, because so far the State has not investigated or taken action to ensure their basic life and integrity. This includes the police forces of the three spheres of government – federal, state and municipal – that have occupied Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua since 2008, without this resulting in improved safety for women.
* We denounce that the current debate to approve the Chihuahua state budget resources has not incorporated resources to implement the state law for the right of women to a life free of violence, or to comply with the Campo Algodonero Judgment.
Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was a human rights defender who, after her daughter’s murder, mobilized people and organizations, institutions and powers to put a stop to femicide, always by strengthening the institutions of justice, citizen action, and democracy. Her assassination reveals the criminal lack of protection that the Mexican State maintains against defenders and its lack of effective will to guarantee women a life free of violence.