Brussels, Belgium – Nations such as Liberia, Mozambique and Venezuela are better than Mexico when it comes to dealing with the problem of deprivation of liberty due to forced disappearance, according to a study by the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI).
The research conducted by human rights experts from the New Zealand-based organization was delivered to the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances for consideration in its review of Mexico in Geneva.
“In terms of the right to be free from enforced disappearance, Mexico currently scores 3.0 out of 10, placing it in the “very poor” range. This means that many people in Mexico are at risk of being victims of enforced disappearance,” the study states.
“Compared to 30 countries worldwide, Mexico is one of the countries with the worst score on the right to be free from enforced disappearance, below Mozambique, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela,” it adds.
Nations such as Kazakhistan, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo and Jordan, double Mexico’s score, with scores ranging from 5.9 to 6.8 out of 10, on a scale from lowest to highest.
Of all the countries, Taiwan, South Korea, Nepal and Malaysia have the best figures, with scores ranging from 8.6 to 8.1, respectively. Behind Mexico, which is at the bottom of the ranking, comes China with 3.5 and Bangladesh, with 4.3 points.
“We asked human rights experts in Mexico which people are at particular risk of enforced disappearance. Sixty-seven percent of the experts stated that all persons are at risk of disappearance in Mexico.”
Although much more at risk are human rights defenders, migrants, people in detention and indigenous people, the study details.
The paper argues that Mexico’s poor marks have not changed significantly since 2017, suggesting that the government is not taking effective measures to effectively prevent enforced disappearances.
HRMI operates with funding from philanthropic actors such as the Open Society Foundation, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, and the UK and Dutch Ministries of Foreign Trade and Development.
The NGO specializes in assessing countries’ progress on human rights. The data generated by its researchers is aimed at driving improvements in the government’s treatment of people.
The document was prepared in the context of the UN Committee’s evaluation of Mexico. The review began on Wednesday and will conclude this Friday.
In the second session, the United Nations rapporteurs, Juan Albán Alencastro and Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, put the spotlight on the sharp increase in the disappearance of minors.
Alarming increase in the number of missing children
“The figures are very worrying in terms of missing children, in recent times it has grown enormously in the State of Mexico, Tamaulipas, Mexico City, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Veracruz, Puebla, Sonora, Michoacan and Baja California,” stated Quintana.
They also highlighted the disparity between the number of unidentified corpses in the country, 54 thousand, and the updated indicators presented by the Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection, in the form of progress and with the participation of the National Guard so far this six-year term: 642 field services, 107 with specialized canines and 71 overflights for the establishment of 655 genetic profiles and 18 identified persons.
“Unfortunately, disappearances continue to be registered, more than 111,000, and the numbers of missing persons do not match the number of investigations, they continue to be much lower, there is no proportion with the facts,” said the rapporteur.
She listed Jalisco as the state with the highest number of people reported missing and unaccounted for, followed by Tamaulipas, State of Mexico, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, Mexico City, Sinaloa, Michoacan, Sonora and Guerrero.
The experts also questioned the lack of human and material resources to allow the operation of the 32 local search commissions, and the delay of 5 years to provide protocols to the National Search Commission and the General Search Law.
In the minutes, they also stated that the resignation of members of the Truth Commission from the 1965-1990 period due to lack of support cannot be considered as “something good”.
The Mexican delegation, headed by the Ambassador to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Francisca Méndez Escobar, reiterated that the country is making progress in this matter.
The government authorities assured that, contrary to the data in possession of the Commission, the relatives do have access to information and the files of the prosecutors’ offices, as well as participate in the field work carried out by the public ministries and other State authorities. The institutions also have custody of investigative resources.
Enrique Irazoque, head of the Unit for the Defense of Human Rights in the Ministry of the Interior, affirmed that the strengthening of the State’s capacities has been progressive.
As an example, he pointed out that the budget of the National Search Commission went from 468 million pesos in 2018 to 1.97 billion in 2023, while the payroll increased from 43 elements in 2019 to 243 in 2022.
The Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Investigation of Enforced Disappearances reported that it handles approximately 400 people per month.
In the dock
The first day of evaluation of the Mexican situation, on Wednesday, focused on the National Policy for the Prevention and Eradication of Enforced Disappearances.
The meeting began with the intervention of the Head of the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Francisca Méndez Escobar, who used the floor to affirm that since the Committee’s visit “there have been key advances”.
She highlighted the creation of the National Center for Human Identification in Morelos, the publication of protocols and programs, the adoption of guidelines, the updating of the registry of missing persons and the launching of the National Forensic Data Bank last May.
He also said that there is more money destined for institutional strengthening, from 2018 to date the budget of the National Search Commission was increased by 135%; for this year it reaches 63 million dollars and adds 200 more positions compared to 2019.
On behalf of the Committee took the floor its Vice President, the Argentine Horacio Ravenna, who said that “we have noticed with concern that the phenomenon of forced disappearance continues to increase”.
Another concern, he continued, is the forensic crisis, the difficulties in the investigation, the lack of development of a science and the focus on the militarization of public security.
“According to the information we have received, there are still 52,000 unidentified corpses, and it seems to us that this shows that the efforts, which we recognize that the government has made, because we are aware of the existence of the agreements, the work, is not producing results”, said Ravenna.
For his part, the Rapporteur Juan Albán Alencastro, said that the Committee has information that the impunity rate for the crime of forced disappearance reached 98.9% in 2021; in crimes such as kidnapping exceeded 80% and today there are 111,540 missing persons.
“With all this background, how many cases of disappearance are under investigation? How many of those cases are of forced disappearance? What measures have been implemented to investigate conducts that are the work of people from the State? To what extent have the chains of command within the State structures that could be involved in this crime been investigated?”, asked the professor of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
The Committee members emphasized the July bomb attack in the municipality of Tlajomulco, Jalisco, in which six people died and 14 were injured, among them children between the ages of 9 and 14. For Ravenna, the risk faced by searching mothers and those investigating disappearances was reflected in this attack.
Enrique Irazoque, Head of the Unit for the Defense of Human Rights of the Ministry of the Interior, assured that the attack in Tlajomulco was directly against public officials, and did not take place in the context of a search.
For her part, in addressing progress on the issue of impunity, Martha Lidia Perez, from the Attorney General’s Office, reported that of the 1,833 files in the hands of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Investigation of Crimes of Enforced Disappearance, 11 criminal cases were issued between 2018 to 2021, while from 2022 to 2023 “there was progress” of 20 investigation files prosecuted for the crime of enforced disappearance and another five criminal cases for different crimes.
For the evaluation, the Committee previously received contributions from non-governmental organizations with long experience in documenting and litigating cases of enforced disappearance in Mexico.
Among the documentation sent to Geneva, there is a report from the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center addressed to the members of the Committee dated August 11.
The text states that unfortunately the only thing that has changed is the openness of the Mexican State to receive the members of the Committee.
It maintains that this openness has not been accompanied by changes, nor by the adoption of measures to comply with the recommendations. “On the contrary, on a daily basis, the situation faced by the relatives of disappeared persons continues to be the same as the Committee found during its visit almost two years ago”.
It emphasizes that state efforts have not meant that there is an adequate and effective state policy to address the crisis of disappearances in Mexico, as evidenced by the lack of implementation of tools such as the registry of missing persons and the National Forensic Data Bank, crucial to address it.