Human rights lawyer Dante Almaraz was shot dead by unknown men in the center of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua State, on 26 January 2006. A passenger in the car, reportedly Mr. Almaraz’s brother, was seriously wounded. Dante Almaraz carried out legal defence work on a number of cases involving women who were murdered in Cuidad Juarez. Amnesty International has warned that Victor Javier García Uribe, a defendant in one of these cases, may be in danger of attack.
Since 1993, more than 370 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez. In more than half the cases the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, while in several cases defendants allege that they were tortured into signing confessions by representatives of the local Public Prosecutor’s Office. Victor Javier García Uribe, who was reportedly tortured into confessing to the murder of eight young women in 2001, was sentenced to 50 years in prison. In 2005 Dante Almaraz had secured Victor Javier García Uribe’s release on appeal.
Fellow defence lawyer Mario Escobedo Anaya, who represented Victor Javier García Uribe’s co-defendant in the same murder case, was shot dead by police in February 2002. The killing was never fully and properly investigated. In 2003, Mario Escobedo Anaya’s client, Gustavo Gonzalez Meza, died in custody. Similarly, the circumstances of his death have never been clarified.
In the weeks preceding his death, Dante Almaraz publicly stated that he was concerned about his safety. It is feared that other human rights defenders in Ciudad Juárez and the family of Dante Almaraz may also be at risk.
Letter by Monique Pongracic-Speier sent on January 27, 2006