Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report on the Human Rights Situation in Mexico

March 2, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published today the report "Human Rights Situation in Mexico." The report is based on the observations made during the on-site visit from September 28th to October 2, 2015, as well as on other visits made by the IACHR and its Rapporteurships, on the monitoring the Commission conducts in accordance with its mandate and through the diverse mechanisms at its reach, such as hearings, and the processing of precautionary measures, petitions and cases.

The report analyses the severe human rights crisis that Mexico faces, with particular emphasis on disappearances (particularly forced disappearances), extrajudicial executions, torture, as well as citizen insecurity, access to justice and impunity. It also addresses the human rights situation of groups especially affected by the country's violence, including human rights defenders, women, indigenous peoples, girls, boys and adolescents, migrant persons, and lesbians, gays, bisexual and trans persons. The report also analyses the situations of killings, violence and threats against journalists.  The report observes that  Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practice journalism.

The Commission welcomes the important constitutional reforms on human rights introduced in Mexico since 2011. Additionally, the IACHR welcomes the recognition by the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) of the obligation of all judicial authorities in the country to implement conventionality control. Moreover, the IACHR highlights the SCJN's decision to limit military jurisdiction in cases in which members of the Armed Forces commit human rights violations against civilians. Another significant improvement was the adoption of the Law on Amparo published in April of 2013.

Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission recognizes the importance of the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, approved in 2012, and invites the State to continue efforts to strengthen this body. Other achievements welcomed by the IACHR are the implementation of the New Criminal Justice System, the approval of the Protocols for Investigation of Forced Disappearances and Torture in August, 2015, the creation of a Specialized Prosecutor's Office for the Search of Disappeared Persons, under the Prosecutor's Office for Human Rights, the Crime Prevention and Community Services of the Attorney General's Office (PGR), and the Specialized Unit regarding the Crime of Torture within the PGR.

The IACHR acknowledges significant improvements in constitutional, legislative and institutional terms in recent years, as well the adoption of important public policies in Mexico, designed in accordance with international human rights law. However, the State's response continues to be insufficient to face this severe crisis of violence and impunity. The IACHR has received alarming information indicating that 98% of crimes in Mexico fail to result convictions.

Violence is widespread across the country, but affects particular areas differently. Further, violence is closely related to the presence of military forces in areas with higher incidence of organized crime, drug trafficking and conflict.

During the visit, the IACHR was able to confirm that the disappearance of persons in large swaths of Mexican territory has reached critical levels. According to the National Registry of Disappeared or Missing Persons, the number of "not located" persons in Mexico, as of September 30 of 2015, was 27,798. In August, 2014, figures from the Attorney General's Office (PGR) reported 22,322 "not located" persons. Official figures combined with the information received from various regions of the country show that disappearances are widespread in Mexico. Especially serious is the extensive and consistent information the IACHR has received regarding the existence of a practice of forced disappearances at the hands of agents of the State, or with their participation, acquiescence, or tolerance. The State response to this situation presents serious deficiencies.

"People are scared to report due to retaliation they may suffer. The mother of a disappeared person told us she received threats of having her tongue cut out, and that she would find the bodies of her other three sons at her door if she insisted on the search," said James Cavallaro, IACHR's President and Rapporteur for Mexico. "When victims are encouraged to report disappearances, the investigations face so many obstacles that practically no cases are ever resolved. We also heard testimonies from relatives about authorities from state prosecutors' offices demanding money to carry out inquiries"

The IACHR perceived deep flaws in searches and serious irregularities in the investigations of disappearances. A special concern is the negligence of state and local authorities during the first hours of after disappearance, vital hours if the victims is to be found alive. In many cases, relatives assumed the search for their loved ones. In the state of Guerrero, the IACHR delegation accompanied relatives of disappeared persons to a field where the relatives themselves had found clandestine common pits with human remains. The testimonies received from relatives of missing persons reveal deep levels of distrust in the state and local authorities. Time and again, the IACHR heard from victims that the administration of justice in Mexico is a "simulation," either because alleged perpetrators are falsely accused or because the authorities do not act with due diligence and their actions do not produce results. The majority of cases of disappearances go unresolved and unpunished.

Regarding the disappearance of 43 students in the Rural Teachers College in Ayotzinapa on September 26th and 27th, 2014, the IACHR, in consultation with the Mexican State and civil society organizations, appointed an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to offer technical assistance in the search, investigation, and non-repetition of the events.  The IACHR reaffirms its support of the five members of the GIEI and their work. As it has done in the past, the IACHR restates its support for all the reports presented by the GIEI. The Commission acknowledges the willingness of the Mexican State to establish the GIEI, and urges the State to continue to support the important work of the Group. In this regard, the IACHR urges the State to provide access to the GIEI's experts to interview all witnesses, including the members of the 27th Infantry Battalion that were present during the events in Iguala on September 26 and 27, 2014, as the Group has requested.

In addition to the severe problem of disappearances, the report analyses killings and extrajudicial executions including the events of Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico on June 30, 2014; Apatzingán, state of Michoacán on January 6, 2015; and Tanhuato, state of Michoacán on May 22, 2015; and the prevalence of the practice of torture. Concerning the killings, figures published by the Executive Branch on September 1, 2015 point to more than 94,000 killings since the beginning of the current administration in 2012.

For many years, the homicide rate has been greater than 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, which constitutes epidemic levels of violence according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions described impunity in homicide cases as "systematic and endemic." The deficiencies in the investigations, and the prevailing impunity, prevent the determination of the actual number of violent deaths related extrajudicial executions and/or the excessive use of force by State agents.

Regarding the prevalence of the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments, the IACHR found that these acts tend to occur during the first hours of detention and before detainees are presented to a judge. The Mexican State reported that in April 2015, the PGR had 2,420 torture-related investigations underway yet there had been just 15 convictions for torture at the federal level. The State response in cases of torture, sias with disappearances, killings and extrajudicial executions, is week and insufficient.

"The spiral of violence and impunity brings severe consequences for the Rule of Law in the country," said Cavallaro. "The great challenge for the Mexican State is to close the existing gap between its normative framework and the reality facing a large number of inhabitants who seek access to a prompt and effective justice," he added.

The report includes recommendations from the IACHR to the Mexican State in areas of citizen security, disappearances and forced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, access to justice, situation of particularly vulnerable persons and groups, and access to information. The Inter American Commission reiterates its commitment to work with the Mexican State to identify and implement solutions and in fulfilling the recommendations presented in the report.

The Commission thanks the Mexican Government and people for their support throughout the visit. The IACHR highlights the availability and collaboration shown during such visit, and values the information and testimonies collected, particularly from families, victims and civil society.

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. 023/16