Epidemic of Disappearances in Mexico – Amnesty International


Members of Amnesty International and other invited human rights defenders present the report: “Treated with Indolence: the State’s response to the disappearances in Mexico” at a press conference in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City Photo: Francisco Olvera

La Jornada: José Antonio Román

Mexico City – Amnesty International (AI) claims that Mexico suffers from an epidemic of disappearances fed by the attitude of “incompetence, inertia and indifference” shown by the government. They are more concerned about giving “relevant political answers” than creating real and effective public policies aimed at confronting this phenomenon.

In their recent report, “Treated with Indolence: the State’s response to the disappearances in Mexico”, the international organisation for human rights emphasized that almost half of the 27,600 disappeared or unfound people have been reported missing during the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to official statistics, this number was 3,425 in 2015.

The 52-page document published by AI emphasizes that many cases have derived from police arrests or army detentions. Furthermore, the fact that Mexican police and army do not keep a record of arrests, “allows authorities to deny complete responsibility and wash their hands of the situation.”

The document also warns of how the Mexican State needs to urgently recognize the magnitude of the problem and to take on the responsibility of investigating all cases of disappearance and forced disappearance which have taken place in the country. Additionally, they need to force those responsible for the crimes to face up to justice and comply with the due process guarantees, as well as, ensure an opportunity for comprehensive reparations of the harm caused to any victims and their families.

AI used their report to highlight two symbolic cases showing various facets of the problem. Firstly, the much reported Cuauhtémoc City, in Chihuahua, where 351 people have disappeared since 2007. The other case was the incident of 43 students disappearing from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Normal School, in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The document, which was officially presented yesterday in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City [el Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia], claims: “In Mexico, it does not matter whether the disappearance case is a hidden one or a high profile one, as either way, the authorities seem incapable of a giving solid institutional response which leads to finding out the truth about the case and guaranteeing justice.”

Amnesty International brings to our attention the incompetence, which affects the entire system and the State and Federal authorities’ lack of desire to investigate the disappearance of thousands of people and find them, further feeding the human rights crisis of epidemic proportion.

The director of the Amnesty International Programme for the Americas, Erika Guevara-Rosas, stated, “The incessant wave of disappearances that has taken over Chihuahua and the completely irresponsible way in which the investigation of the forced disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students is being handled demonstrates the Mexican authorities’ absolute disregard for dignity and human rights."

She highlighted that in many reported cases of disappearances, the victim was seen for the last time when they were arrested by members of the police force or the army. However, “the Mexican Government does not keep a detailed record of arrests, which therefore allows the authorities to deny any responsibility and to wash their hands of the forced disappearances.”

As a result of an investigation, interviews and testimonies from victims’ families linked both to the Cuauhtémoc City case and the Ayotzinapa case, AI claims to have established that neither of the searches carried out have been adequate or well planned.

AI adds that in both cases the authorities have dealt with the information in an irresponsible manner and that the way in which the authorities in charge of the investigation have treated the families is unsatisfactory, hurtful and with a deep disinterest.

The report concludes with 21 recommendations for the Mexican State regarding needed legislation, the search for disappeared persons and investigation of the facts, the comprehensive reparation to victims for damage and other measures of public policy.

Translated by Amy Johnston


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