Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

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Madam Speaker, brutal actions of local and state police are going unpunished; and, as the founder of the Victims Right Caucus, I bring this serious matter to the House's attention.

Two years ago, on May 3 and 4, 2006, there was a lawful protest in support of local flower sellers who had been displaced from their business because a new airport was being built. During the protest, law enforcement officers arrested and detained 47 separate women. The police officers didn't read the women their rights; the women were just arrested, locked up, and taken into custody. Then, Madam Speaker, the officers beat and sexually assaulted them. I repeat, they beat and sexually assaulted the 47 women that were arrested. Obviously, lawmen have become outlaws.

One of the 47 women was Barbara Mendez, a 27-year-old student and a child advocate. Barbara went to the protest because she heard a child was killed in the violence between the police and the protesters. As a child advocate, Barbara went to show her support for the child and her community. But after Barbara arrived at the protest, the police beat her and arrested her because she was with the protesters and supposedly blocking a road. Barbara was placed in a police vehicle and forced to take off her clothes. She was then gang raped by the police officers, as other officers watched and cheered on the rapists. Barbara was then locked up in jail for 12 days.

Madam Speaker, this is a case of police gone wild.

Jail doctors then examined Barbara, but it just so happened that they failed to document her physical injuries or gather any forensic evidence of the rape. This evidence is crucial for any prosecution.

Madam Speaker, rape is a crime that tries to destroy the soul of the victim. And of these 47 women arrested and assaulted, 26 of them later filed complaints with authorities claiming physical, psychological, and sexual abuse during the arrest and detention. But since these assaults occurred, none of the police criminals have been brought to justice. No, not one. And this ought not to be.

Five months after the assaults, a national human rights commission called for criminal investigations into the assaults, but no investigations have occurred.

In February of 2007, the Supreme Court instructed a special judicial commission to investigate the crimes by the police in the arrest of these 47 women.

Then, Barbara Mendez and several other victims filed another complaint with federal authorities, but the federal authorities are sitting on these cases refusing to move forward. Why isn't there any justice for these women?

Next week marks the second year anniversary of these assaults, and yet none of these women have seen a courtroom. Obviously, no justice for these rape victims. Of the 47 women, two are from Spain, one is from Germany, two are from Chile, and the rest are Mexican citizens. But none of them received any justice. Basic human rights is obviously being denied.

Madam Speaker, these assaults did not occur in the United States. They occurred in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico, just 30 miles outside of Mexico City.

This issue is a world human rights issue, and this type of abuse cannot be tolerated and peace officers cannot enjoy impunity. Police officers are supposed to protect the community and keep people safe from harm, not cause harm to people. And, of course, this includes Mexican police officers. These officers must be held accountable. They need to have their day in court. And, if they are guilty, they need to be sent off to the jailhouse.

As we approach Mother's Day in the United States, Madam Speaker, we need to proclaim that mothers and women throughout the world receive the respect and honor due them. That inc