Experts of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances Welcome Mexico’s Cooperation with the Committee’s Country Visit, Raise Issues Concerning Apparent Rise in Enforced Disappearances, High Levels of Impunity and the Slow Progress of Investigations
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances today concluded its consideration of the additional information report submitted by Mexico under Article 29, paragraph four of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and follow-up to the Committee's report on its visit to Mexico in November 2021 under Article 33 of the Convention. The Committee Experts welcomed Mexico’s cooperation with the Committee’s country visit, while raising issues concerning an apparent rise in enforced disappearances, including recent incidents of reported enforced disappearances in Ayotzinapa and Jalisco, high levels of impunity for such crimes, and the slow progress of investigations.
Horacio Ravenna, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, thanked the State party for cooperating with the Committee during its recent visit to Mexico. He expressed the need for attention to the 2014 Ayotzinapa mass kidnapping incident, and concerns over the recent attack in Jalisco. The phenomenon of enforced disappearances appeared to be on the rise, he said. What progress had been made in investigating these incidents?
Juan Pablo Alban Alencastro, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the impunity level for the crime of enforced disappearances had reportedly reached 98 per cent. How many cases of disappearance were currently under investigation, State Prosecutor’s Office data included? How many people were investigated by the competent prosecutor’s office? How many of these persons were linked with criminal proceedings, and how many were civil servants?
Mr. Alban Alencastro said worrisome information indicated that the task of gathering evidence was often being left to victims’ families and close persons. Searches were reportedly slow, and there was a reported lack of protection for those involved in investigations and searches, such as in the Jalisco case. What specific actions had been adopted since 2022 to address these issues?
Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, raised additional issues, including on implementation of the General Search Law, regulation of the National Search Commission, and protections for migrants and human rights defenders.
Introducing the report, Francisca Mendez Escobar, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva and the head of the delegation, said that Mexico was the first country to hold a dialogue with the Committee and the first to be visited by the Committee Experts, adding that several significant steps were undertaken in response to the Committee’s recommendations. These actions aimed to address issues related to enforced disappearances and the search for missing persons. The establishment of several follow-up mechanisms and legislative reforms demonstrated the State’s commitment to addressing human rights concerns in this area.
Ms. Mendez Escobar said the General Prosecutor’s Office was investigating the cases of 4,219 disappeared persons. These cases included 462 victims of kidnapping, 27 of trafficking of minors, 260 migrant victims and 43 more in the Ayotzinapa case. The Special Prosecutor's Office was investigating the disappearance of 2,968 persons. The General Prosecutor’s Office had located 59 victims alive and 200 dead, and had requested 202 arrest warrants related to enforced disappearance; 192 were granted.
Roberto Armando de Leon Huerta, Director General of Human Rights and Democracy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the alternate head of the delegation, said, regarding the Ayotzinapa case, that the State had found three young students’ remains. There were 112 people deprived of their liberty due to their involvement in enforced disappearance cases, 18 of whom were members of the cartel “United Warriors”. 14 individuals from the National Defense Department had been arrested, and six military orders had yet to be executed.
On strengthening search mechanisms, Ms. Mendez Escobar said that in March 2023, the National Programme for the Search for Missing and Unlocated Persons was established. Its objective was to improve the capacity of the authorities to guarantee dignified treatment, justice and truth for families, groups and Mexican society at large. The National Search Commission and the National Commission for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women were working to ensure immediate reaction and coordination in the search for and investigation of cases of disappearance of women, young women and girls.
The delegation said the Department of Public Security had no agreements with organised crime. Security forces could act independently. Zero impunity and zero corruption were the cornerstones of the Department’s approach. The Government was addressing the causes of corruption and impunity, including social inequalities. Peacebuilding programmes visited 15 municipalities and included many hundreds of participants. Over 27,000 local agreements were established to promote peace and prevent crime.
All authorities that were engaged in search activities had a protection system to safeguard the lives of persons involved in searches that included municipal, state and armed forces and the State guard. There was also a protection system for human rights defenders and journalists. Funding for the National Search Commission would increase for 2024 compared to 2023. Also, staff of the Commission had been increased by 70 per cent.
Ms. Mendez Escobar, in her concluding remarks, said the Mexican State maintained its firm commitment to tackling the issue of enforced disappearances and its associated challenges. This was evidenced by the active involvement of all institutions present in the meeting. To ensure effective protection of human rights, Mexico would continue to build the capacity of its institutions in all domains, a crucial step in making progress.
Matar Diop, Committee Expert and acting Chair for the meeting, said in concluding remarks that the constructive dialogue would contribute to the State party and the Committee’s mutual work for the promotion and implementation of the Convention.
The Mexican delegation consisted of the representatives from the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Office of the Legal Council, the Secretariat of the Public Security, the Secretariat of the Home Affairs, the National Search Commission and the Secretariat for Foreign Affairs.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Mexico at the end of its twenty-fifth session, which concludes on 29 September. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s twenty-fifth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 18 September at 10 a.m. to consider the report submitted by Nigeria under article 29 (1) of the Convention (CED/C/NGA/1).
The Committee has before it the additional information report submitted by Mexico under Article 29, paragraph 4 of the Convention (CED/C/MEX/AI/2), and the follow-up to the Committee's visit report to Mexico in November 2021 under Article 33 of the Convention (CED/C/MEX/VR/1).
Presentation of Report
FRANCISCA MENDEZ ESCOBAR, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva and the head of the delegation, said that the Committee's visit to Mexico in 2021 contributed to diagnosing issues requiring the State's attention and strengthening its efforts. Mexico was the first country to hold a dialogue with the Committee in 2018, and the first country to be visited by the Committee and now to hold a second constructive dialogue. In November 2022, the Ministry of the Interior installed a follow-up mechanism to the Committee's recommendations, in which federal authorities participated, as well as 27 prosecutors' offices and 29 state government agencies. To date, three state follow-up mechanisms had been established to follow up on the Committee's recommendations in Coahuila, Sinaloa and Veracruz. Since the Committee's visit, the State had reformed the General Law on Forced Disappearance of Persons, Disappearance Committed by Individuals and the National Search System, which incorporated the right of every person to be sought, and strengthened the functions of the National Search Commission; adopted a national public policy of forensic identification; published the National Search Programme for Disappeared and Unlocated Persons; adopted guidelines for the External Search and Investigation Support Mechanism; and updated the National Registry of Disappeared and Unlocated Persons.
The National Center for Human Identification, attached to the National Search Commission, began operations in August 2022. The National Center would apply a hybrid approach for the correct forensic treatment of unidentified bodies and human remains. In 2023, there were 19 Temporary Shelter Centers in 16 Federative Entities of Mexico. The Government, with the participation of victims’ family members, groups and national and international experts, had approved a Protocol for the Search for Missing and Unfound Persons; the Additional Protocol for the Search of Children and Adolescents; the National Programme for the Search for Disappeared and Unlocated Persons and the National Programme for the Harmonization and Implementation of the Alba Protocol.
In March 2023, the National Programme for the Search for Missing and Unlocated Persons was established. Its objective was to improve the capacity of the authorities to guarantee dignified treatment, justice and truth for families, groups and Mexican society at large. The National Programme was made up of six strategic goals with 89 lines of action that would be implemented mainly by the authorities of the National Search System. The implementation of the Programme would be overseen by the National Search Commission. The National Search Commission and the National Commission for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women were working to ensure immediate reaction and coordination in the search for and investigation of cases of disappearance of women, young women and girls.
In relation to the search for migrants, in December 2022, the National Search System approved the Guidelines of the Foreign Support Mechanism for Search and Investigation. These were guidelines for inter-institutional coordination in searching for missing and unlocated persons. Within the framework of the Mechanism, it was possible to identify migrants reported missing and deceased in border areas. Steps were taken to exempt migrants from visa application fees, and authorise applications from foreign families of persons disappeared in Mexico.
The Registry of Missing and Unlocated Persons contained information on the location of people who the authorities had been requested to search for. The Undersecretariat of Human Rights, Population and Migration and the National Search Commission coordinated searches, and the Secretariat of Welfare was also included. All the capacities of the State needed to be devoted to this effort.
Regarding institutional strengthening, the number of members of the National Search Commission had been increased from 43 in 2019 to 243 in 2023. In 2018, funds were increased by 134 per cent. Likewise, in 2019, a federal subsidy programme aimed at creating and consolidating local search commissions was established. In 2023 the commissions of all 32 states had received subsidies.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Republic carried out investigative acts with respect to the crimes of enforced disappearance of persons and disappearance committed by individuals. In search efforts, the State collaborated with collectives and civil society organisations. The Office of the Special Prosecutor for the Investigation of Crimes of Enforced Disappearance served an average of 400 people per month. The General Prosecutor’s Office was investigating the cases of 4,219 disappeared persons. These cases included 462 victims of kidnapping, 27 of trafficking of minors, 260 migrant victims and 43 more in the Ayotzinapa case. The Special Prosecutor's Office was investigating the disappearance of 2,968 persons. The General Prosecutor’s Office had located 59 victims alive and 200 dead. In relation to these cases, two people had been sentenced to 13 years and 9 months imprisonment, and three people had been sentenced to 31 years and 10 months imprisonment. The General Prosecutor’s Office had requested 202 arrest warrants related to enforced disappearance; 192 were granted. 92 arrest warrants had been executed, representing 45 per cent of the arrest warrants issued.
The General Prosecutor’s Office had established the National Forensic Data Bank, which became operational on May 29, 2023. This was an interconnected digital database for the search and identification of missing persons, as well as for the investigation of related crimes. The Mexican State was committed to building the capacity of its public servants through training and certification programmes. Since 2018, the Attorney General's Office had carried out four certification programmes on investigation of enforced disappearance, and 164 public servants had been certified. The National Search Commission had also implemented various courses on disappearances and searches for persons. This had resulted in the training of victims’ family members and representatives, public officials of prosecutors' offices, local search commissions, the police and the general public.
Questions by Committee Experts
HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked how the State party coordinated with civil society. Why had progress towards the prevention and eradication of enforced disappearances slowed since May this year? How was the Truth Commission operating? The 2014 Ayotzinapa mass kidnapping incident required attention. The phenomenon of enforced disappearances appeared to be on the rise. The recent attack in Jalisco was especially concerning. What progress had been made in investigating these incidents?
Another concern was the forensic crisis. During the visit to Mexico and the dialogue preceding it, there was already a forensic crisis, including problems in identification, because blood evidence was not taken from families or victims. Now there was an agreement with a forensic pathology centre in place. Thousands of unidentified bodies remained, despite Government efforts. Blood tests of family members needed to be administered. What was being done to build the capacity of civil servants to address and prevent enforced disappearance? Had the State party identified links between some State actors and civil servants with organised crime? What actions had been taken in response? A decree to extend the powers of the armed forces had been implemented. What was the State’s vision regarding the roles of the National Police, the National Guard and the Armed Forces in addressing organised crime and other areas?
JUAN PABLO ALBAN ALENCASTRO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked what measures and actions had been adopted and implemented since August 2022 to strengthen the State’s “information ecosystem”? The report indicated that through the development of the “information ecosystem” would facilitate the investigation of disappearances. What authorities provided relevant information regarding the search and investigation of disappeared persons?
The impunity level for the crime of enforced disappearances had reportedly reached 98 per cent. How many cases of disappearance were currently under investigation, State Prosecutor’s Office data included? Also, how many of these were specifically enforced disappearance? Which measures were taken against the persons related with the State services? How exhaustive had the investigations been; and how many security forces’ personnel were investigated? How many people were investigated by the competent prosecutor’s office? How many of these persons were linked with criminal proceedings, and how many were civil servants? How many had been formally indicted under former and current criminal procedures? How many investigations led to decisions to shelve cases or to reclassify criminal charges?
Worrisome information indicated that the task of gathering evidence was often being left to families and close persons. Searches were reportedly slow. Another concern was a reported lack of protection for those involved in investigations and searches, such as in the Jalisco case. What specific actions had been adopted since 2022 in that regard? How had the State, since August 2022, built state and federal capacities to allow for immediate activation of investigations once notifications of a crime were received? How many entities had specialised prosecutors’ offices for disappearances? In 2021, many states did not have them. To date, how many states had the capacity to implement context analysis that could help in locating the disappeared?
Responses by the Delegation
ROBERTO ARMANDO DE LEON HUERTA, Director General of Human Rights and Democracy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the alternate head of the delegation, said that the State’s goals were to promote peace building, reduce the prevalence of organised crime and improve prison housing conditions. All of these efforts contributed to preventing enforced disappearances. Peace building was an overarching socio-economic and political priority. The General Law on Disappeared Persons required institutions to organise among themselves to promote peace. Each state had a preventive approach to security efforts.
The delegation said that coordinated work by all authorities was indispensable for achieving efficient results. Inter-institutional coordination between the Search Commission and prosecutors’ offices relied on the cooperation with families, communities and victims. The authorities of the different Government agencies were in charge of looking for disappeared persons, in accordance with legal provisions. The General Law on the subject laid out protocols and course of actions. Between 2019 and 2023, the National Search Commission with other stakeholders implemented 4,465 days of search in the field across 30 states and even more municipalities. The Commission of Truth was in charge of investigating events between 1965 and 1990. Since 2022, military facilities in numerous locations had been inspected regarding allegations of human rights abuses; all of these actions were carried out with the victims and their families. Inspectors also consulted military, police and other archives, university and civil society resources. Dialogues on truth gathered and analysed witness statements. Public debates were launched towards designing a general law on memory. Regarding the case of Ayotzinapa, the State had found three young students’ remains. There were 112 people deprived of their liberty due to their involvement in enforced disappearance cases, 18 of whom were members of the cartel “United Warriors”. 14 individuals from the National Defense Department had been arrested, and six military orders had yet to be executed. 20 military personnel were thus being punished, including three generals, two captains, two sergeants, two lieutenants, 10 foot soldiers, and one staff member from the Department of the Marines.
The national forensic data plan had been launched, which established the National Registry of Disappeared Persons. In 2023, guidelines were published for the use of the Registry, and the Registry was launched. Training workshops were held on the database with civil servants from 21 states. From 2018 to 2021, there were only 10 cases being tried. However, in 2022 and 2023 there was a rise, with 20 criminal accusations, including eight in the judicial system. Regarding the offence of enforced disappearance, the Prosecutor’s Office collaborated with members of security offices in several states to better identify cases.
All authorities that were engaged in search activities had a protection system to safeguard the lives of persons involved in searches that included municipal, state and armed forces and the State guard. There was also a protection system for human rights defenders and journalists. Funding for the National Search Commission would increase for 2024 compared to 2023. Also staff of the Commission had been increased by 70 per cent. This year, a nationwide campaign was launched to raise awareness of the rights of human rights defenders and journalists. The campaign was launched in conjunction with the European Union and the United Nations. All states had units or prosecutors’ offices dealing with enforced disappearances.
Recent constitutional reform had been approved by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court considered international human rights norms in its ruling on the Radilla Pacheco case. Second, it had given urgent actions a binding character in its 2019 ruling that invoked amparo. The Supreme Court had made plans to pass the National Guard to the National Defense null and void, due to the need to preserve the Guard’s civilian character. Any court could hear cases of enforced disappearance.
Questions by Committee Experts
HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked what had been done to define a comprehensive policy on eradicating enforced disappearance. Which indicators had been chosen; who was preparing the policy, and what were the deadlines?
JUAN PABLO ALBAN ALENCASTRO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked what impact Supreme court rulings had had on local levels especially. What type of oversight did the Supreme Court have over implementation downstream? The Prosecutor’s Office had only been involved in investigating 46 per cent of cases of enforced disappearances. Why had it not been involved in the remaining 54 per cent of cases? How did the Prosecutor’s Office coordinate with truth commissions? When would the training platform for 21 states be fully running? Also, what was the plan for the remaining states? There were reports of over 111,000 disappeared people in Mexico. How could the Committee support the State to scale up investigative and response efforts? Did the protection systems also protect civil servants?
CARMEN ROSA VILLA QUINTANA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the protection system seemed to be marked by insecurity. What measures had the State taken to protect civil servants? What were the tools used in that regard? How many civil servants were engaged in searches, and how many prosecutors and others had lost their lives in the course of investigations?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that institutional data cross-referencing was a legal obligation. The search for individuals had brought some results - some people had been found alive owing to the State database. The national registry was being reconfigured to bring it closer to victims and their families, as well as authorities. Coordination with the prosecutors’ offices was being implemented. Civil servants needed to be protected by their institutions. The local prosecutor’s office was affected by the attack in Jalisco state. Investigations into this incident were ongoing. The incident was premeditated, as indicated by the use of explosives and threats sent to civil servants.
The “information ecosystem” was a conceptual model through which the national forensic database was established. It was a connectivity mechanism. General and more targeted features were being developed. The Prosecutor’s Office had visited 32 states and briefed institutions about the forensic database. It was a tool, not a storage device. It could be expanded when needed. It allowed for additional connections with federal and local authorities. It was fully operational from 29 May, 2023. The data provided on prosecutions was from the specialised prosecutor investigating enforced disappearances. Across the judiciary, there were in total around 1,800 cases opened on disappearances. From 2018 to 2021, there were 11 trials, 10 in accusatory systems and one in pre-trial. From 2022 to 2023, there were 20 investigative cases regarding enforced disappearances and five criminal cases. During the last year, eight pre-trial investigations had been launched compared to only one up until 2021.
Questions by Committee Experts
JUAN PABLO ALBAN ALENCASTRO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked for information on prosecutors’ offices’ investigation activities on state and national levels. What investments had been made since August 2022 in human, material and financial resources so that these Offices could competently carry out their mission and prosecute cases? What actions were taken on federal and state levels regarding the chain of custody? What specific measures had been adopted to ensure that victims’ family members have access to relevant files? There were some reports that they had limited access. What specific measures were adopted or implemented to ensure that authorities considered the specificities of each disappearance case? Could more information be provided on the disappearances of women and other vulnerable groups, such as indigenous peoples? What measures had the Prosecutor’s Office taken to protect civil servants and people working for the State?
The Prosecutor was currently investigating only 1,800 cases, and only 20 had reached the sentencing stage. There was a rather limited use of amparo, even though it was a very valuable tool for victims. What measures were applied to ensure that trials were prioritised at state and federal levels? How many trials had been conducted at federal and state levels, and how many of the disappearances were treated as enforced disappearances? How many arrest warrants and sentences had been issued during the past few years? Following the visit by the members of the Committee, how many times had amparo been applied in cases of enforced disappearance? What budget would be allocated to state judiciaries to improve efficiency?
In October 2020, a decree was issued that established a Truth Commission to investigate events occurring in earlier decades. The President had said that no impunity should exist regarding these events. What measures were adopted to ensure that the prosecutors’ offices would undertake or continue investigations related to events occurring between 1965 and 1990? What were the results of investigations carried out by the Commission thus far? How could the resignation of some of its members affect its work, especially considering their limited mandate of three years. What provisions were being taken to guarantee proper cross-referencing of information from the past so that the information ecosystem could come to life? The ecosystem would facilitate work regarding the disappearances.
CARMEN ROSA VILLA QUINTANA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the Committee aimed to help the State develop a comprehensive law on enforced disappearance. Had the General Search Law been reformed to provide the right of all persons to be searched? The roadmap for implementing the law was pending for more than a year. When did the Secretariat of the Interior plan to approve it? When would the National Search Commission be regulated? Only 25 out of 32 states were developing a law on enforced disappearances. What about the remaining seven?
Local and regional search commissions reportedly did not usually have the necessary tools to carry out their jobs, despite recent budget increases. Was the State allocating all necessary resources and providing optimal working conditions for commission members? What training had been provided to these commissions? Were contracts for commission members permanent or temporary? Many federal subsidies for 2024 to 2025 for local search commissions were returned to the State, indicating that these commissions had insufficient management capacities. What measures did the State take to follow-up on collective searches, prioritising searches for living individuals? What kind of support was being given to mothers who took part in search commissions?
The Prosecutor’s Office had demonstrated a clear reluctance to exchange information, including on search protocols. How did the Prosecutor General's Office operate within the National Search Commission and cooperate with other related bodies? The fight against impunity was crucial. How would the Prosecutor’s Office be made autonomous? It was important to grant “first-responder” status to the search commissions. The Prosecutor General believed that it was not possible to give this status to the National Search Commission. What measures were taken to initiate searches immediately?
Civil society had raised concerns regarding inter- and intra-institutional communication related to searches. Were all relevant institutions permitted to participate in searches, following search protocols? Almost two years had passed since the adoption of two search protocols. Did the State plan to evaluate their outcomes as per the deadlines specified in the documents? Did the additional protocol for children and adolescents have a differentiated focus, considering reports of missing children in some states? Was stigma towards children and re-victimisation addressed in training for State officials? What measures were taken to address ongoing disappearances in numerous states?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegate said financing of the national search system was being discussed. The national system was consolidated through national and local search commissions. Funding for the National Search Commission had been increased by 34 per cent in 2023 in comparison with funding at the time of its establishment in 2018. The number of individuals working for the commission had increased significantly as well. Resources had also been devoted to infrastructure and training. The National Centre for Human Identification had processed some 3,000 samples, trying to identify 1,300 victims. Genetic and forensic centres were also established locally. The Commission’s aim was to have 19 centres in 16 different states, encompassing Baja California, Jalisco, Veracruz, and other states. There were 100 tasks being carried out by the Commission; around 67 per cent of these were rather advanced. Within the next few months, regulation of the National Search Commission and the General Search Law would be completed. A draft of this law had been distributed and soon would be submitted for scrutiny by victims’ families, academia and civil society.
The Department of Public Security had no agreements with organised crime. Security forces could act independently. Zero impunity and zero corruption were the cornerstones of the Department’s approach. The Government was addressing the causes of corruption and impunity, including social inequalities. It was working to prevent vulnerable groups from becoming involved in organised crime and drugs. Peacebuilding programmes visited 15 municipalities and included many hundreds of participants. Job fairs and voluntary disarmament programmes had also been held. 49,000 cartridges and many other sorts of weapons were destroyed. Over nine million goods and necessities seized from organised crime had been re-distributed among the population in need. A programme to reduce violence was also in place. Dozens of state roundtables and many more local ones were taking place. From 2018 to 2022, over 300,000 roundtables were held. Over 27,000 agreements were established to promote peace and prevent crime, and a strategy for that purpose had been developed in Baja California. A peace fair was also held in León.
Regarding search activities, from 2022 to 2023, over 1,000 search days were conducted, including 373 field searches in 28 different states. To support the national and local prosecutors’ offices, the National Guard conducted a series of activities, resulting, among other things, in the identification of the remains of 18 missing people.
The General Prosecutor’s Office’s investigating group was following the chain of custody, implementing guidelines, training and certifications. They had developed several guidelines on forensic matters. Regarding forensic information, families had access to the investigative files. The General Prosecutor’s Office had trained the local prosecutors’ offices on how to respond to cases involving sexual orientation or gender identity, and had worked on publications in that regard.
ROBERTO ARMANDO DE LEON HUERTA, Director General of Human Rights and Democracy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the alternate head of the delegation, explained that nearly 20 per cent of tried cases concerning disappearances concluded with a guilty sentence.
The delegation said victims’ rights should not be burdened with technicalities. The Supreme Court had annulled all state legislative amendments on the criminal definition and the use of sanctions in line with the General Law on enforced disappearance, and granted improved access to investigative files. It had also developed differentiated standards of proof. An amparo ruling from 2016 determined that all those involved in secret detention could be sanctioned. The constitutional reform of 2021 determined that all the decisions of the Supreme Court approved by majority could be binding. This improved the efficacy of the Court. Over 100 members of the judiciary had participated in a course on disappearance, and a course regarding dialogue with victims also existed. The Supreme Court had also produced a manual on enforced disappearance that addressed dialogue with victims. Other projects aiming to raise the awareness of local judiciaries were also in place.
Questions by Committee Experts
HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said certain locations and jurisdictions presented barriers to affected persons’ access to amparo and legal proceedings. What system was used to define jurisdiction?
JUAN PABLO ALBAN ALENCASTRO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked for clarification on statistics provided on field searches. Were these numbers of searches conducted by a single institution, or an aggregation of searches conducted by multiple institutions? How was access to information guaranteed for victims’ families? The budget changes to increase the resources of prosecutors’ offices require additional clarification. Did the Prosecutor’s Office conduct awareness raising campaigns regarding sexual identities to ensure that no stereotypical prejudice was present?
CARMEN ROSA VILLA QUINTANA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for providing detailed information, but requested information on the implementation of the harmonised search protocol and the protocol for children and adolescents. How was the National Search Commission working without regulation, and how was the harmonised search protocol working without additional legal steps? The number of reported disappearances - around 111,000 - did not match the number of investigations. Did prosecutors’ offices publish information on pending investigations?
In Jalisco, large numbers of missing persons were not located, as in other states. How did the peace tables contribute to reducing the number of disappearances and improving the public’s trust in State institutions? How were links between the State and organised crime investigated?
The number of disappeared children was concerning in numerous states. Although 18 persons’ remains had been identified, 52,000 were unidentified. In how many prosecutors’ offices were context analysis units established? How did these contribute to investigations? Context analysis was mandatory by law. What measures were taken to implement this analysis? Was analysis undertaken by the National Search Commission duly used by the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office for Enforced Disappearances? Did this contribute to determining responsibility for disappearances in the chain of command? What were the coordination mechanisms between the prosecutors’ offices and the National Search Commission? Were they systematic and what were their outcomes?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that internal regulations for the National Search Commission would be established in 2023. The commission in charge of implementation of the search protocols aimed to diagnose current capacities. Activities to update the general search protocol were being carried out. Also, dissemination of and training on the protocols took place. 2,491 individuals, primarily civil servants, had participated in this training. The Truth Commission and its associated mechanisms used “Angelus”, a digital tool for organising massive amounts of documents regarding disappearances occurring during the “Dirty War” period and cross-referencing data. Seven remains were found from the “Dirty War” era. Dialogue with the local search commissions continued. 30 search commissions had context analysis units, and two were putting such units together. Tools and guidelines were being updated for these units, with aid from the national level. The search commissions sent context analysis and reports containing information on missing persons’ whereabouts to the General Prosecutor’s Office. There was no limit on the number of analyses that could be undertaken. Analysis could be undertaken upon specific requests from the General Prosecutor’s Office or other bodies.
Periodic analysis by the Government had found that, in 2023, the public’s perception of insecurity had dropped by 4.8 per cent compared to 2018. Likewise, over 90 per cent of the public had confidence in the National Navy and the Army, and over 50 per cent in the judiciary and State police.
Disappeared persons’ families took part in field searches for live individuals with agents of the competent Ministry, and participated as observers during the processing stage. Coordination mechanisms with these families were in place within security institutions and search commissions. The public Ministry, the police and analysts worked in unison. The General Prosecutor’s Office’s analysis unit had carried out several analyses of evidence, especially for cases that had occurred in the past.
Questions by Committee Experts
CARMEN ROSA VILLA QUINTANA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, called for the necessary reform to ensure participation of the Prosecutors’ offices and the Attorney General’s offices in the search commissions. How was work carried out up until this point, despite the incomplete legal framework? What progress had been made in searches for missing persons? Particularly, how was the first phase of implementation of the national program for searches unfolding? Were victims’ representatives and civil society organisations participating? What had been the outcomes of the regional plans that had been implemented since 2019? Had there been additional sessions in the launching of the unified system?
How many disappeared migrants had been identified? Had their remains been returned to families? How was the State party providing support for family members of migrant victims? Was it covering the costs of travel and counselling? What measures had been taken to ensure the safety of migrants throughout the migratory process?
What was the scope of the inter-institutional agreements made through peace roundtables? What actions had been taken by the national coordinator of the Alba Protocol? Were the minimum requirements met in the states regarding searches for missing persons, and did they lead to effective results? Were there sanctions for non-compliance with Supreme Court rulings?
How many human rights activists and journalists were missing or killed? What concrete measures were taken to protect human right defenders? Would state-level mechanisms be bolstered? How many actions were completed and how did the mechanism react? How many people were receiving protection, and how many of them had disappeared or lost their lives? Which risk assessment tools were used, who was involved and what measures were adopted to respond to security incidents?
How were institutions cooperating to undertake immediate and effective searches, as per the harmonised search protocol? What were the obstacles and what measures were put forth to overcome them? Was the State tailoring its approach to the specifics of each case? How were persons found in the victim’s registry being financially compensated? What were the numbers of social workers, medical experts, psychological and other professionals covering the needs of the victims? How were state victim’s registries coordinated with the national one? What steps had been taken to implement the national programme for reparation of victims? What infrastructure, database and other support had been provided to promote identification and turning over of remains? What measures were taken to expand medical services? How were the different structures for identification of human remains coordinated? What concrete steps did the General Prosecutor’s Office take to update forensic capacities? Also, what measures were taken by the State to ensure respect for international standards in exhumation, notification and dignified handing over of bodies? How did the State respond to reports of re-victimisation of the families of the victims? How did the special mechanism for forensic identification function?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said measures were being taken to address overlapping competencies between the different search mechanisms. The State was hoping for a stable budget for these mechanisms. Legislation was being developed that defined the right to memory. The State was developing a monitoring mechanism to aid the judiciary in cases of gender-based violence and enforced disappearances. New legislation allowed migrants to lodge complaints verbally.
Much work was being done with district, local and national courts regarding urgent actions and amparo. In cases of non-compliance, specific criminal charges could apply. Comprehensive reparation should also be considered. After disappeared persons were found alive, courts and prosecutor’s offices worked to provide them with reparation and medical attention. A new system encouraging better coordination between institutions was necessary. From 2018 to 2023, the State had trained more than 14,000 public officials around the country on gender orientation, non-discrimination and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The context analysis unit of the General Prosecutor's Office analysed all social, political and other specificities regarding each case.
Monitoring activities were carried out to determine the success of current activities under the national search programme and plan new ones. State-based monitoring activities were also being carried out. National search commissions conducted activities in accordance with the respective search protocols. The National Search Commission had held 40 working meetings with local representatives regarding a regional plan for Bajío; the final document was being considered currently. The National Search Commission, local search commissions and prosecutors’ offices conducted searches in accordance with the law.
The national registry was recently cross-referenced with national census data. Different authorities were working together to obtain more data to further improve the register. The main aim of the register was to find persons who disappeared. The State would work to constantly improve the register and use it to find persons across the country. Access to the register’s source code was only available to the registered personnel.
A protection mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists had been active for 10 years. According to State data, four human rights defenders and journalists had been murdered and two disappeared. The mechanism had a special unit for conducting context analysis. Over six years, the State would invest three billion pesos in protection of journalists and human right defenders. A draft general law aimed to broaden the protection system across the country and contribute to coordination between the three main protection institutions. It was difficult for federal institutions to issue binding resolutions for the states. The State party was considering amending the Constitution to allow Congress to issue the law, with support and consultation with other institutions. The State party was focused on tackling the causes of violence. Journalists needed to belong to a journalist union and to be at particular risk to benefit from the protection mechanism. Around 1,700 journalists, human rights defenders and their families were benefiting from the mechanism currently, out of whom 1,000 were human rights defenders. Seventeen local protection mechanisms existed.
The budget of the special mechanism for forensic identification currently had around 900 million pesos. There were more than 580 civil servants working on this mechanism around Mexico. People affected by enforced disappearance could turn to the local arms of this mechanism.
The Committee’s recommendations were forwarded to the competent institutions. The State’s efforts had a gender-based focus and an emphasis on children. The authorities’ responses strengthened the available instruments. Harmonisation of the Alba Protocol with international norms had commenced in 2021. The State was aligning its mechanisms with the guidelines and recommendations of international bodies. The technical committee in charge of harmonisation was already established and had held several sessions. Specific legal criteria to enhance protection for children, women and other vulnerable groups would be established.
Questions by Committee Experts
CARMEN ROSA VILLA QUINTANA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked how the national database for forensic information operated. What measures were taken to identify and protect burial sites and remains recovered? What was the budget of the National Centre for Human Identification, and how did it function? Mexico did not have a single database for identification of the missing people. Were any measures taken to establish such a database, and was there a timeline for developing it?
HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for its explanation of the jurisdiction of various entities and of the application of amparo. He also thanked the State party for cooperating with the Committee during its visit to Mexico. The Committee’s tasks were to verify the policies undertaken by the State in the domain of enforced disappearances. Critical analysis would be issued. The search for truth needed to be conducted in a respectful way with victims’ families to avoid re-victimisation.
JUAN PABLO ALBAN ALENCASTRO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked who had access codes to the national registry, and who could update the registry? How did the State confirm the registry’s compatibility with the search protocols? How were individuals proven to be alive or not? How was the security of the information safeguarded? Also, comment on the withdrawal of the two members of the Truth Commission was needed.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the National Search Commission shared a database of Mexican migrants with 331 names. In cooperation with the Commission, authorities were putting efforts to address the issue of missing migrants. Local search commissions were cooperating to identify those who had died abroad. Also, the authorities requested assistance via representations abroad. Disappeared migrants were addressed in the national migrant plan.
The national forensic database was a tool for consultation and sharing information with investigative authorities, not for generating or producing information. It could facilitate finding missing persons. The “information ecosystem” was a model for interpreting data and information. The database had been working since May 2023. A technical annex was published for the forensic database and the national missing persons registers in May 2023. The database would change over time and was not completed.
The State party had held 10 national days of sampling since 2022, and collected more than 1,800 samples from 1,000 families, pertaining to hundreds of victims. The budget for the National Centre for Human Identification was the same as for the National Search Commission. Over the last five years, the National Search Commission had a budget of over five billion pesos, with forecasts indicating that they would have nearly six billion in 2024. 59 staff worked in the centre. The extraordinary mechanism for forensic identification was an autonomous body with its own dialogue with victims’ representatives.
Keys to access registers were given to search commissions and prosecutors’ offices at state and national levels. These authorities dealt with determining proof of life. Information was cross-referenced with federal databases. Civil servants signed letters of confidentiality and other relevant documents protecting personal and other data.
FRANCISCA MENDEZ ESCOBAR, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva and the head of the delegation, said they valued the insights provided by treaty bodies. The Mexican State maintained its firm commitment to tackling the issue of enforced disappearances and its associated challenges. This was evidenced by the active involvement of all institutions present in the meeting. To ensure effective protection of human rights, Mexico would continue to build the capacity of its institutions in all domains, a crucial step in making progress.
MATAR DIOP, Committee Expert and acting Chair for the meeting, stated that the constructive dialogue would contribute to the State party and the Committee’s mutual work for the promotion and implementation of the Convention.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.