Why Is Mexico Rejecting UN Findings on Disappearances?

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Mexico has refuted the findings of a United Nations committee on the country’s enforced disappearances while welcoming input from a regional human rights body, raising questions about why the government is trying to discredit the committee’s conclusions.

The Mexican government has questioned the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances’ (CED) report stating that disappearances are a widespread problem, and that enforced disappearances — which are technically disappearances that involve security forces or other state officials — have been met with almost total impunity, reported Milenio.

In the CED’s report (pdf), which was concluded on February 11, the committee expressed its “concern over impunity in numerous cases of enforced disappearances, as evidenced by the almost complete lack of convictions for this crime.”

The CED recommended that the Mexican government take a series of actions to address this problem, including creating a special prosecution unit in the Attorney General’s Office, investigating officials and state agencies, and protecting individuals who report the crime. The CED also pushed for the Mexican government to recognize its competency to review individual cases.

In response, the Mexican government issued a press release stating that the committee’s findings do not “adequately reflect the information presented or provide additional elements to reinforce the actions and commitments that have been undertaken to address the challenges mentioned,” reported Eje Central.

In addition, Mexican Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade told La Jornada that there were inaccuracies in the CED’s recommendations “which make us think the review wasn’t as exhaustive as it should have been.”

Meanwhile, Meade recently stated that the government would welcome the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) input on the case involving 43 students who disappeared in Guerrero state last September.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Mexican government has a number of possible motives for rejecting the CED’s findings and recommendations. For one, the CED’s conclusions cast the Mexican government in an unfavorable light and undermine President Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign to improve the country’s international image.

“The report is very critical of the Mexican government’s handling of disappearances and enforced disappearances in the country at a time when the government is feeling already in the spotlight about this issue because of the 43 students who were enforced disappeared in September,” Maureen Meyer, a Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), told InSight Crime. “I think they’re feeling very much on the defensive right now.”

Another point of contention is the CED’s allegations that enforced disappearances are a widespread problem in Mexico, while the Mexican government maintains that many of the country’s disappearances likely have other explanations. Jesus Perez, an independent investigator and expert on organized crime in Mexico, told InSight Crime that Mexico has likely rejected the CED’s request to review individual cases because it could “shed ‘too much’ light on issues like the role of military forces in the disappearances of individuals supposedly linked to drug trafficking.”

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On the other hand, although the IACHR can make recommendations about the government’s general approach to disappearances, their investigation is focused mainly on the case of the 43 students (pdf). As Meyer told InSight Crime, the Mexican government has agreed to their involvement in this specific investigation at the request of the victims’ families and human rights organizations.

The Mexican government may also wish to be seen as cooperative without wanting to actually air its dirty laundry in public. “The Mexican government has on several occasions on the one hand welcomed international scrutiny on their human rights situation and then when reports come out from rapporteurs or in this case a committee, kind of backtracked and worked to discredit the work,” Meyer said. 

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