Mexico Security Forces Facing More Scrutiny After Accusations of Abuse

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Accusations were filed against Mexican security and judicial officials for 21 extrajudicial killings and 20 forced disappearances in the first five months of 2013, with the army heading the list for killings, showing a continuation of worrisome human rights trends and raising the question of how the new government will respond.

The National Alert System of Human Rights Violations, created by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), compiled a list of human rights complaints filed against various official bodies — mainly security forces — from January to May. 

According to CNDH, the Secretary of Defense (SEDENA), which manages the army, was accused of involvement in 13 extrajudicial killings; three accusations came against the national police, two against the navy, and various others against a smattering of officials.

In regard to forced disappearances, eight reports implicated the navy, while seven complaints were filed against SEDENA, six against the police, and two against the Attorney General’s Office (presumably more than one entity could be accused of a single crime).

In addition, eight complaints of torture were filed, six of these against the police, and 488 complaints of inhumane treatment, with 192 of these against SEDENA.

InSight Crime Analysis

The accusations of abuse by Mexico’s security forces are troubling but not surprising. Reports released earlier this year highlighted over 26,000 cases of disappearances during the six-year term of former President Felipe Calderon. According to a February report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), of 249 forced disappearances investigated by the NGO, 149 of the cases showed evidence of participation of the security forces. 

According to another HRW report, the CNDH received complaints of 7,350 human rights abuses committed by the armed forces between January 2007 and November 2012. HRW also documented 20 cases of “enforced” disappearances allegedly perpetrated by the navy during June and July 2011.

InSight Crime also noted in 2011 that the number of “aggressors” killed by the army in “combat” was oddly high compared to the number of soldiers killed.

The allegations indicate that this trend may have continued in the first half of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s first year in office, raising questions about how his administration will deal with the country’s human rights situation.

Peña Nieto relies heavily on the military for his security strategy. He also depends on a carefully crafted public relations campaign to try to get people to forget about the state’s frontal assault on organized crime. These factors make it unlikely that he will push hard for deeper investigation into these cases. 

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