Mexico Coahuila: ongoing crimes against humanity - Communication to the International Criminal Court

Mexico: Murders, Disappearances, and Torture in Coahuila de Zaragoza are Crimes against Humanity

The Hague, Paris, and Mexico City, July 5, 2017- FIDH and several Mexican organizations will submita joint communication (report) today to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), requesting that her Office open a preliminary examination into the serious crimes committed in the Mexican state of Coahuila from 2009-2016. The contents of the report are based on the investigation and legal analysis carried out by the FIDH with the support of more than 100 Mexican organizations.

Mexico is the country with the most critical situation in the Americas. There have been 200,000 murders and 32,000 disappearances in the last 10 years. This report details how crimes against humanity were committed in Coahuila between 2009-2016, including arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance as part of a systematic attack directed against the civilian population of Coahuila.

According to the organizations,

The ICC has both material and temporal jurisdiction over crimes committed in Mexican territory or by Mexican citizens since Mexico ratified the Rome Statute on October 28, 2005. The lack of investigations underway in Mexico and the nature of the reported crimes make opening an investigation at the ICC unavoidable, despite the reticence of Mexican authorities.

The report demonstrates that the situation in Coahuila is not one of sporadic violence, nor is the violence solely attributable to drug cartels. It reveals the existence of a policy and structure within the state of Coahuila that both permits and actively supports attacks on the civil population. The analyzed information leads the authors of the report to conclude that from 2009-2011/2012, state authorities responsible for law enforcement committed crimes against humanity in undeniable collusion with the Zetas cartel. Furthermore, from 2011/2012 – 2016, state authorities responsible for law enforcement directly committed crimes against humanity through their Special Forces.

The communication submitted to the ICC is based on 500 cases of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearance, and is specifically based on the files of 73 victims. It also includes information about two particularly violent events that alone may qualify as crimes against humanity, including the March 2011 massacre of 60-300 residents of the town of Allende by members of the Zetas cartel. Evidence suggests that both local law enforcement and the then-governor were aware of what was going to happen. Law enforcement did not intervene, and even cooperated with the Zetas. Additionally, the Piedras Negras Prison (known as CERESO), which is under the responsibility of the government of the state of Coahuila, was converted into a center of operations for the Zeta cartel from 2008-2012. Prisoners entered and exited the prison at their whim, and used the prison as a center where the Zetas could traffic a wide range of goods, as well as build and modify car bodies and make bullet proof vests. More than 150 people were murdered in the prison, their bodies burned or dissolved in acid. Such atrocities would not have been possible without the complicity of prison officials and authorities.

Once the ICC opens a preliminary examination and acknowledge that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed, the Court must determine whether or not it has jurisdiction over the situation or not. To take such a decision, the Court will determine whether Mexican authorities have taken or will take legal action against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and/or their accomplices, which include high-level civil servants and public figures.