World 11-06-2018

In Mexico there are more than 35.000 disappearances and "nobody knows" how many were committed by the authorities denounces the representative of the UN for Human Rights

In Mexico there are more than 35.000 cases of disappearances registered and "nobody knows" what percentage of them are the work of the authorities says the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in that country Jan Jarab.

He says it in an interview with BBC Mundo the following week that the headquarters of that office in Geneva issued a statement indicating "strong indications" that a Mexican federal security force is involved in the forced disappearance of 23 people in Nuevo Laredo to the northeast of the country.

The Mexican government responded with the announcement of an investigation and on Wednesday indicated that it will review the cases of disappearances with the UN office attending to the families of the victims.

Jarab considers this commitment positive but warns that he expects progress "in a relatively short time" and that those responsible for these crimes are sanctioned whether it is military: confirms that the testimonies point to the Navy.

"That will be the criterion of success: see also progress in the investigation of those responsible" he says.

And he affirms that Mexico must discuss a change of focus in security because "the strategy of war for public security did not work".

What follows is a synthesis of the telephone dialogue with the international representative in Mexico:

You said that the wave of disappearances in Nuevo Laredo is "an emblematic case" for Mexico. Why?

It is part of an immense universe of cases. We know that the official registry of disappearances already has more than 35 thousand cases of disappearances. We do not know nobody knows what percentage of these disappearances are enforced disappearances by the authorities and how much are the disappearances by individuals. But it is a very big phenomenon.

What we see in Nuevo Laredo is different from other cases due to the fact that it is already at least 26 cases documented by our office since February.

The disappearance of 26 people including minors, in a single municipality in just four months is very dramatic as a whole and is obviously terrible for each of the families of the victims.

Last week spoke n of 23 cases. Have you documented three more?

We have documented three more cases yes.

The UN statement speaks of "strong indications" of a federal security force in enforced disappearances. Do you specifically refer to Mexican M arina?

The office said that the testimonies of the relatives of the victims indicate the federal forces and if it is specifically about the Navy.

This was confirmed (Wednesday) in the meeting with the authorities, the testimonies of the families of the victims who are pointing out the Navy.

However it is the role of the investigating authorities in this case of the Attorney General's Office (PGR) of its specialized prosecutor's office for disappearances, to determine the authorship of these facts. Then the office (of the UN) can not pronounce definitively on the authorship of the facts.

How do you evaluate the response of the Mexican government?

We consider the development of the last days very positive. A very important meeting was held in Nuevo Laredo in which the central authorities listened for four hours to the heartrending testimonies of the families of how their relatives were disappeared how the authorities in Tamaulipas for weeks have refused to investigate diligently how they tried them discourage or even the threats they have received.

The commitments of this meeting are very important. We had the Undersecretary of the Interior the Special Prosecutor for Disappearances of the PGR the National Search Commissioner and they all assumed the commitment that a vigorous investigation will be developed, that no perpetrator will be protected, including the Secretariat of Marina as explicitly stressed.

We hope for progress soon. It will be the families who will determine if this is an advance.

Does there have to be criminal proceedings for the perpetrators of these crimes to go to prison even if they are military?

There are four priorities: first search and find out the whereabouts; second investigation and punishment to those responsible whoever third protection of relatives and witnesses, also reparation; and fourth the guarantees of non-repetition not only in Nuevo Laredo.

Does this include the prosecution of those responsible for these crimes?

Of course, and we hope that in a relatively short time we will see advances in research. That will be the criterion of success: see also progress in the investigation to those responsible.

Even if it's military?

Whoever the perpetrators are.

The government's response seems at least late: local human rights groups in Nuevo Laredo have reported disappearances of 56 people before, more than double those documented by the UN. Was there omission or lack of will of the Mexican government to deal with this?

I do not want to make a general assessment about what happened between February and May. What we know from the testimonies of the families is that they did not have this quick, diligent response in the investigation.

This is not the first time that suspicions arise that the government of Mexico is involved in the disappearance of people. Is there anything that makes you think that the situation is going to change now?

We are going to see it. Yes we consider positive the commitments assumed by the representatives of the government.

Among the thousands of disappeared there is undoubtedly much uncertainty about the authorship, but there are cases where the authorship of public corporations was documented, then by the authorities. These are forced disappearances, also in previous years in Nuevo Laredo itself.

More than 200.000 people have been killed since the Mexican government declared war on organized crime in 2006. In this electoral campaign more than 100 politicians were killed. Is there a risk that the situation of violence will be taken as something natural? Because internationally there does not seem to be the repercussion that this would cause in other countries ...

It seems to me that there is a growing international attention, at least of the human rights system.

The dramatic increase in disappearances occurs after this alleged war against drug trafficking begins. Also the homicides have grown in a truly dramatic way, normalizing the extreme violence.

In 2005 and 2006 homicide rates in Mexico were at historically lower levels and tripled in 11 or 12 years. Today they are at their highest levels.

That shows us that the strategy of war for public security did not work. It resulted not only in serious human rights violations but also, from the perspective of security that it promised, its effects are counterproductive.

Does the government of Mexico have to review the participation of the Armed Forces in this internal war against organized crime?

Without a doubt. Our office since 2007 warned that the use of the Armed Forces may result in violations of human rights, which due to the nature of their preparation are not suitable for public security tasks.

The following decade unfortunately confirmed that he was right. That is why our office also opposed the adoption in December of an internal security law that legalizes and petrifies this situation.

Obviously it will not be easy to change this strategy, it will not be possible to send the Armed Forces to their barracks from one day to the next. But a broad public discussion is needed on a change in security strategy where the human rights perspective is very important.


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