H. Rights Accompanier Raped and Murdered in Oaxaca
International Human Rights Accompanier Raped and Murdered in Oaxaca
by Julie Webb-Pullman
The body of United States citizen Marcella "Sali" Grace was found on September 24 in a deserted cabin 20 minutes from the village of San José del Pacífico, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. She had been raped, brutally beaten, and killed. A villager who had gone to feed dogs in the area noticed a bad smell and informed the municipal authorities, who found and removed the body. Julieta Cruz, a friend of Sali's, was only able to identify her from her tattoos, as her face was unrecognisbale.
Sali had been working as an "international accompanier" in Oaxaca, whereby foreign nationals provide protective accompaniment to human rights workers, political activists, and members of social organisations who are under threat, such as members of the Asemblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) who are continuing to suffer widespread repression by the corrupt government of Ulises Ruis Ortiz. In the weeks before her death Sali had told friends and colleagues that she believed she was under surveillance, and was being subjected to political persecution.
In a practice that has become only too familiar with the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of Oaxacans since 2006, the Oaxacan Attorney General's Office is dragging its heels, doing little to progress the investigation or bring the killer/s to justice. Despite the existence of witnesses able to identify those responsible for Sali's rape and murder, they have not been interviewed. Friends and colleagues of Sali's trying to find out what happened to her have been denied access to any information, including the case number and autopsy results, leading to growing concern that her murder is related to the widespread repression and persecution of social movements in Oaxaca, and is now being directly targeted at international observers. Many believe that the intellectual authors of Sali's death are the same as those who ordered the repression against the people of Oaxaca in their struggle for justice and freedom over the last few years.
"In the face of these bloody events, and for the brutal cruelty used against compañera Sali, we don't disregard that this could be a clear message directed at all the people of Oaxaca, as well as the compañeros in solidarity from different parts of the world; we say this based on the recent national and international news which says that APPO members were the ones who killed U.S. journalist Bradley Roland Will. We are worried about the distortion of information like this, and about the obvious bureaucratic slowness with which the authorities involved are already treating this investigation, and that these things will prevent us getting true justice for our compañera," said a spokesperson of the Oaxacan women's movement.
Marcella "Sali" Grace
In a cruel irony, she also noted that one of Sali's activities in Oaxaca was teaching women's self-defense courses, in recognition of the endemic violence against women there and to help them walk "free and respected."
Oaxacan women's groups have been joined by other social movements and individuals to demand that the Oaxaca Attorney General's Office immediately clarify the facts surrounding Sali's murder, conduct a full and speedy investigation, and bring the perpetrator/s to justice. They are also protesting outside United States consular offices in Mexico, encouraging them also to demand justice for their citizen.
"Enough is enough of the murders, violence and hate against women who fight for justice," they said.
Those who Sali died trying to protect are now
calling on concerned people everywhere, especially other
human rights workers and women, to join their demand for a
proper investigation into her death, by sending an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoning (01 951) 5178190 CIPO