An Arduous Path to Justice for Mexico’s Disappeared
By MEREL HAENEN
Nearly 14 inconclusive years have passed since Dan Jeremeel Fernández Morán was last seen driving in the vicinity of Gomez Palacio, a small Mexican town around three hours north of Durango’s state capital, on Dec. 19, 2008.
The day of his disappearance, his mother, Yolanda Morán Isaís, was expecting him to arrive at a nearby, local bus station, but he never turned up. His family took on an unrelenting search that has continued ever since, in the face of persistent impunity.
During a press conference held on Thursday, Aug. 4, in Mexico City, the human rights organization I(dh)eas publicly announced the complaint they filed before the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN).
The complaint followed three prior instances in which the international committee has condemned the Mexican state for its inadequate response to other disappearance cases that are being represented by the civil association.
In short, Fernández Morán is just one among the nation’s staggering rate of more than 100,000 victims who are currently unaccounted for.
Cynthia Juárez, the lawyer working on Jeremeel’s case, presented her other panelists – the defendant’s mother and his sister, Grace Fernández – as the “main protagonists,” a well-deserved title for the people who have effectively been carrying out the Mexican government authorities’ work.
Juárez said that Fernández Morán’s disappearance “is plagued by inconsistencies and irregularities at the hand of the ministerial representatives and all levels of government, who have treated indices that could have favorably served the case’s investigation with incompetence, negligence and even indifference.”
The speakers recounted how the occulted information, discrepancies and denied responsibility impelled them to look for evidence by their own efforts.
“We did everything we were supposed to do, we handed over information to the Prosecutor’s Office, demanded its involvement, asked for help, took to the streets, put ourselves at risk and thought, if the authorities are not prepared, we might as well lay the groundwork for them,” said Fernández.
Less than a month after her borther’s disappearance, on Jan. 4, 2009, they found their relative’s car, allegedly being used by a military officer on duty.
According to I(dh)eas, rampant corruption has prevented Fernández Morán’s case from progressing through the nation’s own legal system. Turning to the international judicial bodies as a last resort is, according to I(dh)eas’ Director Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, a chance “for Mexico’s responsibility to be acknowledged at an international level, so that a comprehensive investigation, search and reparation of damages can be aspired to, in accordance with universal standards.”
Morán Isaís’ statement eventually transitioned from stating that the Mexican administration has not only deprived her of her rightful access to the truth, to how she felt it has twisted a more insidious truth for those identified as “indirect victims” of disappearance.
Family members or dependents of the disappeared often suffer from chronic health conditions, for which institutions such as the Executive Commission for Victims Assistance (CEAV) offer little to no recognition nor relief.
If the families’ searches are a constant reality and source of insecurity, then so is the strain inflicted on their bodies.
“I was entitled to two weeks of therapy, but what is two weeks of treatment within the scope of 14 years?” said Morán Isaís.
Earlier this year, on March 17, a public hearing was held before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the lack of adequate health care directed at the ailments that afflict those who spend years in truthless torment looking for their loved ones.
“Someone once said that they wished other people could put themselves in our shoes, to know what we’re going through,” said Morán Isaís.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to stand in my shoes, not for a second.”