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Monday, May 4, 2015

HRW Calls for an End to Contended Abuse and Worse in Mexico

Human Rights Watch

Mexico needs to do more to ensure that human rights atrocities are effectively investigated and punished, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Mexico’s new attorney general, Arely Gómez González. Human Rights Watch identified steps the attorney general should take to fulfill her commitment to protect human rights.

The problems of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture are widespread in Mexico, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch cited its own findings in a series of reports as well as reports by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and multiple UN human rights monitors. Impunity for these abuses is the norm.

“The Peña Nieto administration has put far too much energy into downplaying its human rights crisis, and nowhere near enough into solving it,” said Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director at Human Rights Watch. “The new attorney general is in a position to help chart a new course for Mexico, but she will need to be far more active than her predecessors.” 

Upon taking office in March 2015, Gómez González pledged to investigate violations, including disappearances and torture, and to make it a priority to work with national and international human rights monitors.

In March, Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, presented a report before the UN Human Rights Council affirming that “torture is generalized in Mexico” and that those responsible are rarely brought to justice.

But in late March, the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto publicly denounced the special rapporteur, questioning his finding that torture was a generalized problem in Mexico. Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, undersecretary for multilateral affairs and human rights at Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, stated that Méndez had been “very irresponsible and unethical,” publishing findings “he could not back up,” media accounts said. 

On other occasions, senior administration officials, including former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, have pledged to address the country’s human rights problems, but their efforts have been inadequate and produced limited results, Human Rights Watch said.

In June 2013, for example, the Attorney General’s Office created a unit dedicated to handling disappearance cases. As of January 2015, the unit had not obtained a single conviction for an enforced disappearance committed since 2007, according to official information.

The new attorney general should work with other competent authorities to ensure that its special unit on disappearances has sufficient resources and personnel to carry out investigations, Human Rights Watch said. The prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of these and other abuses should be a top priority for her office.

Human Rights Watch also said that the attorney general’s office should release the names of 22,000 missing people, as well as the thousands more reported missing who have allegedly been found. The new attorney general should also ensure that independent experts involved in the investigations are able to carry out their work without undue interference, and that victims, their families, and the general public have as full access as legally possible to the findings of these investigations.

“Instead of acknowledging the scope of the violations taking place in the country, the Mexican government’s response to the UN report on torture was an unwarranted and gratuitous attack against a well-respected jurist,” Wilkinson said. “The new attorney general has acknowledged her obligation to address these crimes, but it remains to be seen whether she’s willing to do what it takes to ensure that they are fully investigated and that the abusers are finally brought to justice.”

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News release, "Mexico: Agenda for New Attorney General," Human Rights Watch, Apr. 28, 2015, New York, NY

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