Press Release

Rapporteurship on the Rights of the Child Culminates Visit to Mexico

October 20, 2014

Mexico City, Federal District - The Rapporteur on the Rights of Children and Adolescents of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz, made a visit to Mexico from October 6 to 14, 2014. The main objective of the visit was to monitor the human rights situation of children and adolescents in Mexico, at the federal level and in four states and the Federal District, with particular emphasis on monitoring the systems for the promotion of the rights of the child, as well as the impact of violence and migration on the exercise of their rights. The Rapporteur also placed special emphasis on the systems for alternative care, and the impact on the rights of homeless children. Finally, the Rapporteur participated in a working meeting on the implementation of the precautionary measures requested by the IACHR of the State in favor of 43 disappeared youths in the city of Iguala.

During the visit, the delegation visited the Federal District, the city of Cuernavaca in Morelos; the city of Oaxaca, in the state of Oaxaca; the city of Saltillo, in Coahuila; and the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Ciudad Victoria in the state of Tamaulipas. The Rapporteur met with high-level authorities of the three branches of government in those states, and with more than 100 civil society organizations, human rights commissions, and victims of violations of human rights and their relatives. The Rapporteur and her team also visited the Specialized Center for Measures of Deprivation of Liberty for Adolescents in Morelos; the Migration Station of Saltillo, international bridge No. 1 in Nuevo Laredo; the Migration Station of Nuevo Laredo; the Care Module of the System of Integral Development for the Family (hereinafter DIF: Sistema de Desarrollo Integral para la Familia) for unaccompanied migrant children; the Center for Attention to Minors at the Border, of Nuevo Laredo (CAMEF); the Migration Station of Reynosa; the Care Module of the DIF and the Center for Attention to Minors at the Border, also of Reynosa; the Hidalgo bridge; and the Centro for Adoptions and the Children’s Home (Casa Hogar del Niño) of the DIF in Tamaulipas.

The Commission is grateful to the government of Mexico for the invitation extended to the Rapporteur, as well as the disposition of the highest-level federal, state, and municipal authorities of each of the states and the Federal District, and the open and unrestricted access the delegation had to all the migration offices centers, centers where adolescents are detained, and alternative care centers. In particular, the IACHR appreciates and values the information provided by the government, civil society organizations, persons affected, and other interested persons. The Rapporteur is especially grateful for the support of UNICEF for carrying out this visit.

Systems for Promoting Rights

The Commission received relevant information the current legislative process regarding the Proposed General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents. The Rapporteurship has closely monitored this process in Mexico, and salutes the fact that on the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was promoted by Mexico, it is at an advanced stage in establishing a National System for the Integral Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents. In this regard, the Rapporteur urges the State to adopt and promulgate that statute with a view to ensuring integral, well-coordinated attention, with the collection of relevant data, adequate financing, with the participation of all branches and levels of government, as well as civil society, including organizations of children and adolescents. In addition, the Rapporteur calls on the State to give priority to implementing that law and to creating the mechanisms that it establishes.

The Rapporteur observes major gains in creating and implementing these systems in the states of Morelos, Oaxaca, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas, and recognizes the gains in coordinating policies, which allow for improved design and coordination of social programs for food and nutrition, access to education, health care, creation, and the improvement of safe public spaces, among others. The Rapporteur also highlights the program of access to a scholarship up to the university level in the state of Morelos, as well as the reform of the juvenile justice system. The Rapporteur also highlights the creation in Coahuila of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children (PRONNIF: Procuraduría para la Niñez), which in two months has handled the cases of more than 2,000 children.

The Rapporteur observes that despite these gains, old patterns of lack of coordination and focus persist, which means that the children are unprotected despite the existence of a system which, though it has many resources, is not sufficiently organized for the comprehensive protection of their rights.

Right to Food

At the federal level, the Rapporteur was informed of the implementation of the program called the National Crusade against Hunger, which is said to benefit 3 million persons through 90 federal government programs. According to that program, some 7 million persons are living in extreme poverty in Mexico. According to the information provided by the Ministry of Social Development, 4,522 community kitchens (comedores comunitarios) have been implemented for children and pregnant mothers, and soup kitchens in schools that operate on a full-time basis. The Rapporteurship also received information from the National System of Integral Development for the Family regarding its successful breakfast program in every state of Mexico.

Nonetheless, the Rapporteur observes with concern that according to the information it received, 7.25% of children ages 5 to 14 years in urban areas suffer chronic malnutrition, this figure being double in rural areas, and is even worse among sectors such as indigenous populations. The Rapporteurship has also observed that malnutrition as well as child obesity have a negative impact on the development and well-being of children and adolescents, finding that 4.1 million children of school age had this problem. The Rapporteur calls on the State to redouble its efforts to better coordinate and expand its policies so as to ensure an integral rights approach in its programs, as well as effective access for all children to culturally sensitive food, education, and health services.

Alternative Care

As regards the system of alternative care for children and adolescents, the IACHR observes the persistence of an alarming absence of regulation, coordination, and supervision by the State of the institutions that provide care to children, which has systematically exposed them to serious risks. In this context, of particular concern to the Rapporteur are cases such as that of “Casitas del Sur,” in which 15 children were removed from a shelter run by a non-governmental association. In addition, the situation recently discovered by state authorities in which 458 children and adolescents, six of them ages 0 to 3 years, were found who were apparently living in subhuman and insalubrious conditions, subjected to abuses, at “La Gran Familia,” a residential institution run by a woman known as "Mamá Rosa" in Michoacán. The Rapporteur expresses special concern over these facts, and reiterates that it is unacceptable for the State not to have a complete record of the children in alternative care situations, and for the private homes (known variously as casas or hogares) not to be duly regulated or supervised.  

The Rapporteur reminds the State that the separation of a child from his or her family is an exception and that its main responsibility with respect to children without parental care or in risk of losing it is to implement, in a coordinated fashion, plans and programs to strengthen the capacities of the families themselves to care for their children, with nearby programs established in their communities. As regards the system of alternative care, the IACHR reminds the State of the urgent need to adequately regulate the functioning of the centers that take in children so as to carry out reforms with a view to the non-institutionalization of children; to ensure that children pass through these homes on a transitory basis, and for them to have family-type environments with small numbers of children; to ensure that the directors and staff are trained in the rights-based approach and work with the objective of returning the children to live with their own families as soon as possible; to ensure coordination between administrative and judicial authorities so as to implement a life plan for each child, with periodic review of the measure; and to ensure that the best interest of the child be upheld at each stage of the process.

Right to Health

As for the right to health, the Rapporteurship received information from civil society organizations with respect to the increase in adolescent pregnancies indicating that pregnancies in girls ages 10 to 19 years account for 17.6% of all pregnancies nationwide. This has consequences for their health and development. These pregnancies become a cause of discrimination and at the same time of possible violations of the rights to life, access to information, education, and health.

The Commission recalls what is established in the Report The right of girls and boys to a family –Alternative care – Ending institutionalization in the Americas, which establishes that children and adolescents, depending on the evolution of their capacities and personal autonomy, have the right to access information on sexual and reproductive health, with confidentially and without the need for the presence or consent of the parents or legal guardian. In addition, it establishes that children and adolescents can and should participate in the decisions that affect their health, unless their maturity or discernment do not allow for it. In this vein, access to all programs, services, and information that promote the prevention of pregnancy in girls and adolescents is vital.

Homeless Population

The Inter-American Commission has monitored the situation of the homeless population, mainly in Mexico City. In this regard, the Rapporteur received information concerning the roundups that have been carried out in which some communities were displaced from their places of residence. The Rapporteur observes with concern the lack of effective programs to support these communities, as well as the purported re-victimization they are said to suffer when coming into contact with the authorities, and makes an urgent appeal for the implementation of adequate and coordinated programs to guarantee that this population, one of the most vulnerable in Mexico, has effective access to the exercise of their human rights of access to justice, protection of the family, education, and health, among others.

Child Migrants  

The IACHR has closely monitored the situation of child migrants in the region in recent years, and has noted the circumstances of special vulnerability they face as they transit through Mexico. The situations of risk include kidnapping, smuggling and trafficking of persons, deceit by the smugglers known as “coyotes,” labor and sexual exploitation, robbery, recruitment by organized crime to carry drugs across the border, physical, emotional, and sexual violence, killing for gender-based motives, and homicide. The Rapporteur expresses profound concern over the invisibility of these children who travel through Mexico. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014, at least 66,127 children cross through Mexico unaccompanied.

The IACHR observes with concern that the only contact with Mexico authorities is when they are detained by the National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración), which immediately turns them over to the centers of the DIF, so as to then return them to their countries, with the involvement of their respective consulates, or to their states of origin in the case of Mexican migrants. The Rapporteur received information from the authorities indicating that no child in the places visited had requested asylum or refugee status. Interviews with the children in the centers also reflected the lack of knowledge as to their options, as well as the lack of legal counsel. The Rapporteur states her concern over this situation, which reflects a lack of adequate attention by the Migration Institute, as would be required to see to it that their rights are respected and to ensure that the measure taken answers to the best interest of each child, on a case-by-case basis.

The Rapporteur received consistent information that indicates that nearly 80% of the children are headed to the United States with the objective of meeting up with one or both parents, and the rest do so mainly to escape violence, which explains the high rates at which these children try again even after being detained. The IACHR recalls what was recently established by the Inter-American Court in its advisory opinion No. 21, of August 19, 2014, to the effect that it is an obligation of states to adopt measures that contribute to the care and well-being of the child with a view to ensuring the integral protection of their rights prior to being deprived of liberty. The Court adds that the parameter of state action should have as its objective ensuring to the greatest extent possible the prevalence of the best interest of the migrant child. According to the foregoing, the Rapporteur calls on the states of Mexico to jointly ensure optimal implementation of the best interest of the child, adopting measures other than detention that ensure that their transit is in safe conditions with full respect for their human rights.

The Rapporteur also received information from the authorities and civil society concerning the conditions in which Mexican children are received at the northern border, highlighting the deplorable health conditions, such as undetected illnesses, some accentuated by the extreme cold they suffer in the facilities, untreated blistered feet, as well as the lack of documentation. Moreover, the Rapporteur received information that despite an agreement that establishes schedules for repatriation, in Coahuila the children continue to be repatriated at nighttime, diminishing the possibility of public or private agencies granting due protection, and thereby accentuating their exposure to danger.

Disappearance of Children, Adolescents, and Youths

The Rapporteur received alarming information concerning allegations made regarding the disappearances of children and adolescents, in addition to young adults, affecting practically the entire national territory. The Rapporteur received information that indicates an alarming increase in the number of children who have gone missing and/or have been disappeared, and that even so the State has not provided figures on how many children are disappeared. According to the information received by the Rapporteur, the lack of timely information by the authorities in charge of investigations also hinders the implementation of programs to address the needs of victims. For example, the Rapporteur received a group of 94 families said to be victims of forced disappearance in Tamaulipas, who for the most part blame the state forces for those forced disappearances. The family members report that no progress has been made in any of the investigations into these incidents, and the information provided by the State does not refute those reports.

The Rapporteur reminds the State of its obligation to investigate these crimes promptly, diligently, and impartially. The investigation should clarify the causes that led to these serious acts of violence; identify and punish the direct perpetrators and masterminds; and satisfy the expectations of justice of the victims and their families while acting on the causes identified with effective prevention programs. The magnitude of this situation in Mexico merits the adoption of urgent measures to address it and the measures needed to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.

The IACHR has closely monitored the situation that occurred in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26 and 27, 2014; the deaths of six persons (among them four students and a 15-year-old child), and the apparent forced disappearance of 43 young student teachers from the teacher-training institute known as the Escuela Normal Rural “Raúl Isidro Burgos” who were calling on the president of the DIF (the wife of the local mayor) to improve conditions at the rural teacher-training institute, such as the number of students enrolled, food, and transportation. In this connection the IACHR held a working meeting to follow up on the precautionary measures requested by the IACHR, in which the applicants and the State agreed on a series of steps to implement those measures.

The IACHR reiterates an urgent appeal to the Mexican State to act with the great urgency to locate the 43 students whose whereabouts are unknown; to protect the life and personal integrity of the survivors, their families, and representatives; to investigate these crimes promptly, diligently, and impartially; and to adopt the measures needed to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.


The Rapporteurship received with concern information that refers to the increase in the levels of violence as well as the lack of state records of such occurrences. It received information from civil society organizations that indicates that from 2006 to 2014 they had documented 2,000 cases of children assassinated and/or mutilated, in some cases with extreme violence. It was also informed of a large number of children recruited by organized crime, which is said to carry out aggressive actions to recruit them, especially in poor communities. In addition, the large number of orphans who have lost one or both parents is worrisome, as is the number of persons said to be internally displaced due to violence, among them children and adolescents.

The Commission salutes the actions taken by the Mexican State, such as the creation of the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims and the adoption of the National Victims Law, nonetheless it reiterates priority much be accorded to implementing effective and coordinated plans to address this situation at all levels. Such an effort should include investigating and punishing those who turn out to be responsible; providing adequate and comprehensive services to victims; and developing plans to prevent violence against children, in the context of the national and state systems for the promotion and full protection of their rights.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 125/14