During the on-site visit to Mexico the Commission confirmed the serious human rights crisis that exists in that country.
This crisis is characterized by a situation of extreme insecurity and violence; serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture.
IACHR Publishes Report:
"Situation of Human Rights in Mexico"
The report analyzes, in particular, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture, as well as the situation of citizen insecurity, lack of access to justice and impunity, and the situation of journalists, human rights defenders and other groups especially affected by the context of violence in Mexico.
It also provides recommendations with the aim of assisting the Mexican State in strengthening its efforts to protect and guarantee human rights in the country, in accordance with the international human rights obligations assumed voluntarily by the State.
Advances in Human Rights Policies in Mexico
The IACHR values the constitutional and legislative reforms introduced since 2011 in terms of human rights.
The constitutional reforms elevated to constitutional level the human rights contained in international treaties of which Mexico is a party, and made the “amparo” a judicial tool to seek redress for violations of those rights.
The report acknowledges the protocols approved to investigate cases of torture and forced disappearance, as well as the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice, which limits military jurisdiction in cases in which members of the armed forces commit human rights violations against civilians.
Photo credit: Daniel Cima for the IACHR
Main Factors Behind the Violence in Mexico
Use of Force by Non-State Actors
Poverty and Social Exclusion
Trafficking of Persons, Drugs and Arms
“We go out in a borrowed car and we go to the mountain and wherever the ground sinks a little, that could be a sign that someone is buried there. We stick this rod in and smell it and if it smells putrid, we know a body is there.”
Testimony of a family member of a missing person to the IACHR on a piece of land where 18 bodies were found outside Iguala.
Disappearances and Forced Disappearances
Fear to Report
There are currently more than 400 families in Iguala that meet and conduct these searches for unmarked graves, since 2007. Since November 2014, 106 bodies have been found. To date, only 7 have been officially.
Without Assistance for Victims
“They tell me, don’t look because I’m going to cut your tongue out. Don’t look because your three other children are going to end up lying at the door of your house and that will be on your conscience. They leave us this void, this absence, and our hearts frozen because we can’t even cry.”
Testimony from a mother in Mexico City.
The National Defense Ministry reported that between 2007 and 2012, during alleged acts of “aggression against military personnel,” 158 members of the military and 2,959 “alleged civilian attackers” died. They indicated that for every member of the military killed, 18.7 civilians died.
In Mexico, members of the military may use force to prevent the imminent commission of a crime and to protect against an attack. Along these lines, the IACHR has been informed that the armed forces frequently attempt to tamper with crime scenes to make it appear that any incident involving civilians was the result of a confrontation.
There are no federal laws in Mexico that speak specifically to the use of public force. Despite the fact that the armed forces' involvement in citizen-security undertakings should be temporary and strictly exceptional in nature, it would seem that the 2014 Joint Armed Forces Manual on the Use of Force normalizes the presence of the military in such tasks.
The prevalence of the practice of torture is also alarming in Mexico.
The types of torture consist of a combination of punches, kicks with boots, and beatings with sticks and the butts of weapons to different parts of the body; insults, threats, and humiliation; electric shocks to the genitals; dry asphyxiation and waterboarding; and even forced nudity and sexual torture.
Lack of Codification
Investigation and Punishment
Fear to Report
Specific Situations of Concern
The events that transpired between 2014 and 2015 warrant particular attention; they have included reports of grave human rights violations perpetrated by the Federal Police, the armed forces, and the Navy.
Tlatlaya, Mexico State
Charges were initiated for homicide, unlawful exercise of public office, abuse of authority, aggravated homicide, and unlawful alteration of the crime scene and for the crime of covering-up by soldiers.
According to the official operations document, the soldiers were to “operate en masse during the night and to ease activities during the day so they could take down criminals in hours of darkness.”
Four of the soldiers prosecuted in the civilian courts had been released because of violations of due process. It is of the utmost importance that judicial authorities are able to conduct their investigations and conclude their criminal prosecutions independently and without external interference of any kind.
The State indicated that the reason the Federal Police had shown up was because they had received an anonymous phone call reporting an armed group engaged in a protest. The ruling issued by District Judge Five determined there was no key proof to indicate who had been carrying the weapons confiscated during the detention and that the number of people was not consistent with the number of weapons seized.
For several civil society organizations, the events in Apatzingán represent one more case of undue use of lethal force as well as a cover up by the authorities to prevent anyone from learning the truth about the facts; for this reason they continue to denounce deficiencies in the investigation. The events that transpired in Apatzingán are still being investigated
According to the State’s version, this was a confrontation. However, according to media reports, there is some debate about the facts. For example, photographs and statements from locals appear to indicate possible acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, crime scene tampering, and the planting of weapons. There was reportedly confirmation that more than 70% of the victims had been shot in the back of the neck at point-blank range, and also that one of the victims had not died from a bullet wound, but rather had been beaten to death.
The bodies were also said to have been moved and the weapons that were allegedly found on them had magazines of different models and thus could not have been used in combat. According to media reports, the relatives of one of those killed—an alleged member of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel—indicated that after examining the photographs of the bodies, they saw visible burns and broken limbs. Local community members likewise assert that the bodies of their children came back castrated, with marks on their fingers, and in some cases they were missing teeth and an eye. The PGR has taken over the investigation.
When the use of force is essential, such force should be applied in a manner consistent with the principles of legality, absolute need, and proportionality. In all cases where civilians are wounded or killed by the police or the military, the Mexican State must urgently conduct diligent and impartial investigations in order to establish the facts and determine the applicable criminal responsibility.
Women in Mexico continue to be the victims of certain crimes at rates higher than men.
Alert of Gender Violence Against Women (AVGM)
The State informed the Commission that of the 9 requests for an alert that have been processed under this new regulation: one was declared approved 15 months after the request (Morelos); another one was declared denied due to the response of the state government to address the recommendations and proposals made by the working group (Guanajuato); and the remaining 7 requests are still pending within the allowable timeframes.
Murders y "Femicides"
Torture y Sexual Torture
The IACHR supports the creation and will follow-up the Mechanism for Addressing Cases of Sexual Torture committed against women,which is the result of an agreement between the Mexican State and the petitioners of the thematic hearing regarding sexual violence, in the context of the 154th Period of Sessions.
Indigenous Peoples and Communities
Indigenous leaders and defenders of the environment who oppose to extractive projects are being subject to violence at the hand of individuals who are sometimes with support of the local authorities.
It is estimated that 35% of the mexican territory has been concessioned through more than 29,000 concessions—mining, hydroelectric, and wind power. 17% of them are inside some indiengous territories.
Violence in the context of mega-projects has resulted in murders, executions, harassment and threats against indigenous people in many states of the country.
It received information about the misuse of the criminal law against indigenous defenders, environmentalists and peasant leaders.
Trans Women and LGBT Persons
In Mexico is a frequent practice to classify investigations regarding attacks on the lives and physical integrity of LGBT people as ‘crimes of passion’.
Although some cases go to trial, they commonly remain unresolved and no one is accused.
Mexico must adopt necessary measures to investigate, punish and repair acts of violence against LGBT persons and adopt necessary measures in terms of prevention of violence, including policies aimed at eradicating social discrimination towards LGBT persons, which causes and reinforces the violence based on prejudice.
147 IACHR Period of Sessions - Situation of Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Transexual, Bisexual and Intersex Indigenous Persons in the Americas. Ronald Céspedes, Quechua Nation – Bolivia / Amaranta Gómez Regalado, Zapoteca Nation – Mexico.
Photo credit: Oliver Contreras/Eddie Arrossi Photography
Children and Adolescents
Murders and Violent Deaths
Rape and Sexual Violence
Deprivation of Liberty
There is no adequate regulation or supervision of institutions that provide alternative care to children which exposes them to situations of violence, negligence, abuse and exploitation.
Migrants and Internal Forced Displacement
During the visit to Mexico it was found the state of insecurity and violence affecting the country has led to thousands of people being forced to move internally.
Violence has had a particularly severe impact in causing the forced displacement of groups such as indigenous peoples, human rights defenders and journalists. The fact that the authorities do not recognize the existence of internal displacement, and that their numbers remained unquantified, has favored its invisibility.
It is of great concern that the detention of migrants and persons under international protection continues to be the rule rather than the exception in Mexico.
Individuals Deprived of Their Liberty
Another serious problem in Mexico is the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the widespread use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of individuals just after their arrest and before being brought before the courts.
Widespread Use of Pretrial Detention
Political Arbitrary Detentions
Quasi Flagrante Delicto
The concept of quasi flagrante delicto grants excessive leeway to the State regarding detention of suspects of potential suspects, and jeopardizes respect for due process in criminal matters contrary to international human rights standards on the subject.
Torture and Ill-Treatment
These usually have the aim of extracting confessions, gaining incriminating information, and to punish the victim.
The most common are fist beatings, kicking with boots, batons and gun butt blows on various parts of the body; insults, threats and humiliation; electric shocks mainly to the genitals; forcing others to witness and/or listen to the torture; wet and dry choking; forced nudity, and sexual torture.
Precarious Conditions of Detention
Federal and state detention centers suffer from common structural patterns such as overcrowding, corruption and uncontrolled self-government in aspects such as security and access to basic services, violence between inmates, lack of medical attention, a lack of real opportunities for social reintegration, a lack of differentiated attention for groups of special concern, abuse by prison staff, and lack of effective grievance mechanisms.
The persons deprived of their liberty are subject to improper payments by prison staff so that they are provided with services and basic goods, such as food, water and health. They are also required to pay a regular fee in order to avoid being beaten and abused in detention centers.
They have highlighted the complexity of the situation in detention centers such as Topo Chico, in the State of Nuevo Leon, where the inmates themselves have allegedly beaten and even killed those refusing pay for extortions. They also prevent family members from providing basic necessities to inmates since, allegedly, a private firm sells these kinds of articles inside the facility at exorbitant prices.
Imposition of Disproportionate Disciplinary Sanctions
One of the most common punishments is the imposition of solitary confinement in small cells and in deplorable conditions, for excessively long periods –even months— and restrictions on family visits and phone calls.
Another type of sanction imposed is the transfer to other detention centers in order to restrict contact with persons outside the prison. There is no official notification of the transfer to the inmate, her relatives or legal guardians; and during the course of the transfer, the inmates are allegedly subjected to ill-treatment and torture.
Privatization and Certification of Prisons
It is if concern the lack of available information on the contracts concluded by the State and the respective companies, as indicated by civil society organizations.
The Commission states its concern regarding the information received that, at least in some cases, the privatized center regime and the search for international certification, are planned and carried out in light of the US maximum-security structure, which involves standards incompatible with human rights.
Lack of Differentiated Attention for Special Concern Groups
Regarding persons with disabilities in the prison system, most of them are held in detention centers that are inappropriate for their treatment, and they are housed in reduced areas subject to unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, exacerbated by their health needs.
With regard to migrants, it is of great concern that the detention of migrants and persons under international protection continues to be the rule rather than the exception in Mexico.
“They took me for arguing with a security chief, for demanding my rights. They left me without calls. The guards hurt my hands. They have not provided attention for my hand. I do not trust the authorities.”
Testimony received by the IACHR at the Santa Martha Women's Center for Social Readaptation, one of the inmates revealed that she had been held for three months in punishment cells for discussing with a security chief; the length of the punishment was confirmed by the authorities, who stated that it was the result of repeated infractions committed by the person being punished.
Human Rights Defenders and Journalists
Violence against human rights defenders, justice operators, and journalists is to silence the allegations and the cries for truth and justice, as well as to perpetuate impunity for grave human rights violations.
Human Rights Defenders
Collusion Between Agents of the State and Members of Organized Crime
In many cases, criminal groups act in apparent direct collusion with State authorities, or at least with their acquiescence.
The Commission received testimony —especially in the rural parts of the country— on the collusion between criminal groups and members of the municipal police forces. Some Mexican authorities have also recognized to the IACHR that many municipal police officers are either overwhelmed or coopted by organized crime.
These criminal organizations have been able to establish a generalized regime of violence and serious human rights violations, in some cases with the collusion of State authorities.
Drug Policies: “War on Drugs”
Since the launch of the so-called “war on drugs” in 2006, serious situations of violence increased until they reached alaming levels, including the subsequent loss of more than 100,000 human lives, thousands of disappearances, and a context that has caused the displacement of thousands of people in the country.
In addition to the high homicide rate, another concern is that the vast majority of these crimes go unpunished.
Militarization and Human Rights Violations
Providing the armed forces a role that should correspond to civilian police forces to fight against drug trafficking has resulted in an increase in violence and violations of human rights in Mexico.
Between 2007 and 2011 the number of members of the armed forces involved in public security duties doubled, and the current administration has during its term in office so far spent 100 times more on weapons than previous administrations.
The fatality index of the confrontations with the army was of 7.7 civilian deaths for every civilian wounded. This is because in authentic confrontations, there tend to be more people wounded than killed, because when police use force legitimately, they seek to maim and not to kill.
States must restrict to the maximum extent the use of armed forces to control domestic disturbances, since they are trained to fight against enemies and not to protect and control civilians, a task that is typical of police forces.
I/A Court H.R., Case of Montero Aranguren et al. (Retén de Catia) v. Venezuela. Judgment of July 5, 2006, Series C No. 150, para. 78.
Impunity, Access to Justice and Judicial Independence
When violent crimes end up in impunity, the violence is perpetuated, as the perpetrators do not face the consequences of their actions, creating a spiral of impunity. This impunity is itself a form of discrimination in terms of access to justice. The current crisis of serious human rights violations Mexico is experiencing is in part a consequence of the impunity.
This problem permeates the police, the courts, and many public prosecutors’ offices, producing a generalized perception of impunity.
In addition, impunity and corruption are closely-related phenomenons that erode citizen trust in the authorities, which also leads to impunity that exacerbates the climate of violence.