Forced Disappearance in Mexico: The Case of Jethro Ramses Sanchez

The case study below is the second in a series of special blogs which will be posted over the next month with Count the Costs supporter, the Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, (Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights). These blogs, in line with the aims of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which set off earlier this month across the US, are intended to put a human face to the thousands of lives lost in Mexico as a result of the US-led War on Drugs.

The case described is particularly relevant with Mexico’s National Supreme Court making an historic move this week towards restricting military jurisdiction and forbidding it to trial cases where military personnel are accused of committing human rights violations against civilians by referring the case of Bonfilio Rubio Villegas to a civilian not a military court. Human rights groups are calling for this to become a binding precedent on all courts in Mexico.

More on the Supreme Court ruling can be read here and here.

Commenting on the story, Nik Steinberg, the Mexican and Cuban researcher for Human Rights watch commented: “This is the most important step the Supreme Court has ever taken toward ending the longstanding practice of sending abuses by soldiers to military courts.”

The case of Jethro Sanchez highlights the importance of this ruling, and is one of 28 cases that has been taken to the Supreme Court this week.


Forced Disappearance: The Case of Jethro Ramsés Sánchez; Cuernavaca, Morelos

“No-one can bring my son back to life. I have the obligation to fight for his memory, so that other young people will not be exposed to this kind of arbitrariness."

-- Father of Jethro Sanchez

Jethro Ramses, aged 27, was an electro-mechanical engineer with a Masters in Business Administration. He owned an auto-mechanic shop and was a teacher at the Polytechnic University in the state of Morelos.

On the 1st May 2011, Jethro disappeared. According to the National Human Rights Commission, it is now known that the municipal and state police as well as members of the army were involved in his disappearance. He was first detained by the municipal police and then illegally handed to the army. He was then taken to a military facility where he was tortured.

The National Human Rights Commission has recently recognized that Jethro Sanchez's case was a case of enforced disappearance committed by Mexican State actors. In international human rights law a forced disappearance (or enforced disappearance) occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by either the state or a political organisation, or by a third party who acts with the authorisation or support of the state, followed by a refusal to explain the person's fate and whereabouts. It has recently been proved that Jethro was arbitrarily detained by authorities who later denied their actions, and that he was tortured whilst being detained.

Members of the Army took his body to an empty lot in the state of Puebla, close to the state of Morelos where he is originally from. His body was found months later in a deteriorated state, and required DNA tests for its identification. As the Commission stated: “…while unconscious, they took him to the state of Puebla, they buried him at an empty lot, he was probably still alive; this action eventually led to his death…”

In August 2011, the state’s ombudsman issued a recommendation which called for full reparations, including a public act of acknowledgment. However, the municipal and states authorities have still not complied with the recommendation. His family is still struggling for truth, justice and reparations.

This week, his case was taken to the Supreme Court to challenge the competence of the military jurisdiction. After a week of discussions, the majority of the judges pronounced that the military court was inappropriate in cases where military personnel were responsible for having committed human rights violations and ordered this case to be transferred to a civil court.

Hector Sanchez, father of Jethro Ramses, saw this decision as a step forward and hoped that "this will work as a corrective measure so people who are taking wrong decisions will be limited and criminal sanctions will be applied to those responsible". He added, "anyway, no-one can bring my son back to life. I have the obligation to fight for his memory, so that other young people will not be exposed to this kind of arbitrariness."

Octavio Amezcua, Legal Defense Director of the CMDPDH, said: "The ruling of the Supreme Court is highly relevant in the context of public security's militarization in Mexico and the consequent increase in human rights violations committed by the military. With this ruling, new guarantees for the victims are giving for obtaining justice through an impartial and transparent process."

Watch the below for more on the human rights costs of the war on drugs: