Press Release

IACHR Welcomes the Creation of Mexico’s Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism, Awaits its Swift Implementation

December 18, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the decision to create Mexico’s Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism, an outcome of a constructive dialogue among Mexican authorities and the families of missing persons that the IACHR has closely supported through its monitoring mechanisms. The IACHR awaits this new initiative’s swift implementation and stresses its willingness to provide technical assistance to the effort.

On May 9, 2019, in the context of the IACHR’s 172th Period of Sessions, a public hearing was held to address forced disappearances and the proposed creation of an Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism for Mexico, at the request of several organizations representing groups of families of missing persons. The organizations who requested the hearing reported that a forensic crisis was ongoing in Mexico and noted that the remains of approximately 26,000 people were unidentified and that around 40,000 people were missing. These organizations mentioned evidence of several technical problems affecting forensic practices in the country, as well as excessive workloads and mistrust in Mexican forensic institutions, whether federal or local. They proposed the creation of an Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism and requested IACHR support. The State said that searching for victims of forced disappearances and disappearances at the hands of individuals was one of its priorities and stressed its willingness to discuss the relevant mechanisms.

Given the size of the problem of disappearances in Mexico, the Commission held a meeting on July 30, 2019, to follow up on that public hearing. The meeting was chaired by the IACHR’s President, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. Since then, State authorities at the highest level have met with national organizations active on this issue and with the families of missing persons and various groups that bring them together. These meetings have sought an agreement on measures to address the country’s forensic crisis, particularly through the creation of an Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism. Through its monitoring mechanisms, the IACHR has supported the process and noted government announcements on the creation of this new institution.

The Commission values the fact that, on December 5, 2019, following a substantial dialogue, an agreement was reached for the creation of the Extraordinary Forensic Identification Mechanism (MEIF, by its Spanish acronym). The MEIF is set to be led by Olga Sánchez Cordero, who also heads the National System to Search for Missing Persons. The IACHR takes this first step toward the creation of the MEIF as progress toward ensuring truth and identifying the remains of thousands of victims of disappearances, and toward securing justice for victims and their families, in accordance with the international commitments voluntarily made by Mexico. The Commission will monitor normative and institutional developments to enable the MEIF to operate. The IACHR hopes the new framework will incorporate the expectations and proposals made by specialized organizations and of victims’ families and organizations concerning MEIF independence and autonomy. The Commission encourages the MEIF to adopt a multidisciplinary technical-scientific approach, in line with the applicable international standards.

“This Mechanism is a relevant tool to improve the process of identifying the high volume of remains that are pending analysis,” said IACHR President Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, who is also the Commission’s Rapporteur for Mexico. “We welcome this step taken by the State, since the forensic situation in the country is a very serious matter that requires special attention,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, head of the IACHR’s Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice.

The Commission values the fact that the Mexican State is addressing the serious problem of disappearances and the forensic crisis as one of its top priorities concerning human rights. The IACHR will continue to closely monitor this issue. The Commission stresses its commitment to supporting future developments and efforts to draft guidelines to enable the MEIF to be able to operate effectively. The IACHR is fully willing to keep up its technical assistance for the construction of this new mechanism, in keeping with its own mandate.

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. 329/19