Experts: Urgent Action can help save lives


A woman wears a surgical face mask that reads Where are they? during a mass for people with missing relatives to mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Saltillo, Mexico. © REUTERS/Danniel Becerril

Reyna Patricia Ambros Zapatero is a survivor.

In May 2018, she was forced from her car, just outside her home in Tamaulipas, Mexico, by armed men, wearing the uniform of the Mexican Navy. The men took her on a long car journey, at the end of which, Zapatero was forced from the car, and taken to a room where she was hooded and assaulted.

"During my detention, I was beaten and kicked in various parts of my body," she said. "I was ordered to sit down and then glued to the wall. I could hear other people being beaten and screaming in pain."

But, her detention was short-lived. Three days after arrival, she was hooded, bundled in a car and driven to a far location. The driver threatened Zapatero and her family with death if she attended any more demonstrations or filed a complaint. She was left on the side of a road in the early hours of the morning, where passing motorist later found her and took her to hospital.

She credits her quick release in part to the intervention of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) via its Urgent Action procedure.

"I am sure that the urgent action of the CED brought my situation to the attention of the Mexican State," Zapatero said. "I think it was key for (the Navy) to release me."

Zapatero presented her story at the closing of the 20th session of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) . The CED is where States can seek support in their fight to eradicate and prevent enforced disappearances and for people to seek justice for disappeared loved ones at an international level.

Committee member Horacio Ravenna said there are still challenges in finding solutions to cases such as Zapatero's.

"Her presence here today is proof that international intervention can contribute to save lives," he said. "Today, you are the voice of others who have appeared alive. Your testimony comforts us in the pain of our daily frustrations."

An urgent action is a request from the Committee to a State party to immediately take all necessary measures to search and locate a disappeared person and investigate their disappearance. The urgent actions are the result of petitions filed by relatives, legal counsel or anyone having a legitimate interest in searching for the disappeared person. Generally, the Committee makes an intervention in 48 hours.

Yet, any time being held against your will is too much, said Patricia Zapatero.

"I hope that one day I will receive real reparation for what I have suffered and that my case will be truly investigated," she said. "It is impossible to recover just like that. I need justice and reparation. We all need to be able to walk the streets of our cities without fear."

7 May 2021

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