MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Five men in northern Mexico were sentenced to an unprecedented 697 years in prison for the gender-driven killing of 11 women, in a state where hundreds of young women have been murdered since 1990.
The sentence was the longest-ever given for a femicide, the killing of a woman due to her gender and was based on scientific evidence, said an official at the attorney general's office in the state of Chihuahua, home of the border city of Ciudad Juarez, which in 2008 recorded one woman missing each day.
"They used ploys to recruit young women into prostitution and drug distribution," Chihuahua's attorney general's office said in a statement. "Then, when they were no longer 'useful,' they took their lives and threw their bodies in the Navajo Arroyo, in the Valley of Juarez."
In addition to prison time of nearly 700 years each, those sentenced also have to pay a total of 9 million pesos ($550,000) in damages to the families of the victims, whose bodies were found in 2012.
Authorities have prosecuted some of the cases but have not always handed down long prison sentences due to the ambiguity around declaring femicides, and also to the overall high rate of impunity in the country, where many crimes go unpunished.
Mexico's Supreme Court in March for the first time ordered that a case be probed as a femicide, after prosecutors in the State of Mexico initially labeled it a suicide, based on an investigation seen as plagued by anomalies.
The National Citizen Femicide Observatory, a coalition of human rights groups, believes that some 3,892 women were murdered in Mexico between 2012 and 2013, but only 16 percent of cases were investigated as femicides.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, writing by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)