IACHR Files Case Concerning Mexico with IA Court Regarding Impunity Over Disappearance of Member of Cho'l Indigenous Community

February 15, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — On January 22, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over the case of Antonio González Méndez, concerning Mexico. The case concerns the failure to investigate, prosecute, and punish the disappearance of the victim in 1999, in a context of violence in the state of Chiapas, where paramilitary groups acted under the auspices of the State and with its consent, committing acts of violence such as executions and disappearances. This violence specifically targeted the indigenous population that supported the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) and the political opposition.

Antonio González Méndez belonged to the Cho'l indigenous people, was a member of the civilian support groups for the EZLN, and was an activist with the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). He was last seen on January 18, 1999, after leaving his home with Juan Regino López Leoporto, who the petitioning party claimed belonged to the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia. After Antonio González Méndez was reported missing, proceedings were initiated against Juan Regino López Leoporto as the likely perpetrator of the offense of illegal deprivation of liberty.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR analyzed whether Antonio González Méndez's disappearance constituted a forced disappearance. It determined that the events could not be classified as a forced disappearance due to the lack of sufficient evidence of a link between Juan López and the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia, which was operating in the area at the time.

However, it deemed that the actions implemented to search for the victim and learn the truth about the disappearance were ineffective. It also noted that the Public Prosecutor's Office took almost three years to request a photograph of the victim to facilitate the search and that multiple irregularities in the process were identified. Furthermore, the information gathered to follow different lines of investigation was not analyzed properly, nor were any searches carried out in the area where the suspected perpetrator resided. Finally, the IACHR concluded that the State violated the right to humane treatment to the detriment of Antonio González Méndez's wife and children.

In view of this, the IACHR concluded that the State of Mexico was responsible for violating the rights to personal integrity, fair trial, and judicial protection enshrined in articles 5.1, 8.1, and 25.1 of the American Convention in relation to the obligations established in articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument, and that the State failed to comply with the obligations set out in article I (b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons.

The recommendations issued by the IACHR to the State in its Report include the following: provide comprehensive redress for all human rights violations set out in the report; implement a rehabilitation program, including psychological and psychosocial care for Antonio González Méndez's family; investigate the victim's whereabouts and, if necessary, return his remains to family members; reopen internal procedures in order to make the investigation effective and punish those responsible for the crime; take measures to prevent similar events from taking place; and strengthen the capacity of the judiciary to conduct efficient investigations into human rights violations and possible forced disappearances.

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 and to defend 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. 029/22

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