OAS court condemns Mexico probes of women slayings

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 11:44 PM

The Interamerican Court of Human Rights has criticized Mexico for a lack of diligence in investigating the slayings of three young women in the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez.

The court, which issued the ruling Nov. 16 but didn't make it public until Thursday, said it found irregularities in the probes, including the mishandling of evidence and the coercing of innocent people to confess.

Authorities failed to prevent the killings and they didn't deliver justice to the victims' families by botching the investigations and failing to prosecute negligent public officials, the court said.

Mexico bears responsibility for "failing to respond to the disappearance (of the women), the lack of due diligence in the investigations into their killings, the refusal to deliver justice and the lack of adequate (financial) compensation," the court said.

Mexico's Interior Department said in a statement that it would "closely study the sentence and make all the efforts necessary to carry it out." It also said most of the court's findings refer to problems that the Mexican federal government and officials in Chihuahua state already have been addressing.

The ruling came six years after activists petitioned the court, a body of the Organization of American States, to take up the case of three women whose bodies were found in a Ciudad Juarez field in 2001. The activists said officials responsible for sloppy investigations should be punished.

The state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is located, has been plagued by the unsolved slayings of hundreds of women since 1993. Critics say police have mishandled dozens of murder cases and often tortured suspects into falsely confessing to killings.

The court said Mexico should pay a total of $800,000 in compensation to the victims' families, solve the killings of the three women and fix its procedures for investigating the slayings. Mexico has agreed to be bound by the court's rulings.

Rights groups called the verdict historic.

"This sets a very important precedent in the struggle to defend the human rights of women and especially of poor women," Mexican women rights groups said in a joint statement.