GENEVA (17 May 2022) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday called on the Mexican authorities to step up efforts to ensure truth and justice for victims of disappearances, who now number more than 100,000, according to official data.
“The scourge of disappearances is a human tragedy of enormous proportions,” said Bachelet. “No effort should be spared to put an end to these human rights violations and abuses of extraordinary breadth, and to vindicate victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.”
A national registry has been compiling disappearances dating as far back as 1964. According to the database, about a quarter of those documented to have disappeared are women, while around a fifth were under 18 at the time of their disappearance. More than 97 per cent of the disappearances whose date is known occurred after December 2006, when Mexico transitioned to a militarized model of public security.
Only 35 of the disappearances recorded have led to the conviction of the perpetrators. This staggering rate of impunity is mostly attributable to the lack of effective investigations. It leaves victims’ families, already deeply affected by the disappearance of their loved ones, to cope alone with the additional burden of trying to ascertain what happened to them.
“During my visit to Mexico in 2019, I was able to see first-hand the courage of the victims’ families, who were key actors in organizing and proposing solutions, and achieving legal and institutional progress towards recognizing the magnitude of this issue in Mexico,” the High Commissioner said.
Bachelet paid tribute to all the family members who have persevered over decades in pursuit of the truth and justice, including Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, whose son Jesús Piedra Ibarra was forcibly disappeared in 1975. Doña Rosario, who died in April, helped to locate some 150 disappeared people alive and return them to their families.
Mexico has taken significant steps, including the adoption of the General Law on Disappearances, the creation of search committees in all states and, more recently, the creation of a National Centre for Human Identification. It has also set up committees to examine serious human rights violations that occurred between 1965 and 1990, as well as the 2014 enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, and established the Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification.
Mexico in 2020 recognized the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) to examine individual complaints. In June 2021, in a historic decision, the Supreme Court recognized the binding nature of the CED’s Urgent Actions. In November 2021, Mexico became the first country to accept a visit by the Committee, which went to 13 Mexican states and held more than 150 meetings with authorities, victims’ organizations and NGOs.
Bachelet said she hopes these positive steps will pave the way to prevent further disappearances, clarify the whereabouts of those who have disappeared, improve access to justice and guarantee the rights of the victims.
The High Commissioner called on the authorities to place the families of those who have disappeared at the centre of their efforts, and to make the necessary resources available for investigations and searches to be effective.
Bachelet also called on Mexico to effectively implement all the recommendations of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, as well as all the provisions of the General Law on disappearances, including by creating the National Forensic Data Bank and the National Programme of Exhumations and Forensic Identification.
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