In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico that Mexico and the state of Chihuahua were responsible for cultivating conditions of feminicidio and pervasive structural violence against women. Drawing on theories of justice, agency, and responsibility, this essay examines the court’s legal decision to understand the power of rhetoric in creating the conditions for justice in the face of state-complicit structural violence. The court crafted a series of definitional, commemorative, and deliberative stipulations that Mexico had to recognize and implement to do justice to past and future victims of feminicidio. The Inter-American Court does important definitional work toward naming gender violence as structural violence, yet the court limits possibilities for justice in two important ways. The court figures Mexico as responsible and uses that frame to suggest that the state is the primary agent responsible for ensuring justice. While this is a common equation of agency and responsibility in legal cases, in matter of state-complicit structural violence, such configurations end up foreclosing the possibility of justice and augmenting the powers of the state.

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