Amnesty International warns: Mexico lives between militarization, disappearances, and opacity

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The killings of journalists and human rights defenders; the criminalization of activists defending territory and the environment; a sustained increase in the number of disappeared persons — which already numbered around 114,000, according to official records — while the relatives of these victims ‘continued to be exposed to serious dangers, such as enforced disappearance, murder, repression, or threats,’ are some of the considerations of Amnesty International (AI) regarding the human rights situation in Mexico in the last year.

The global report presented each year by the organization based in London noted that last year ‘the president (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) continued to make public accusations against the Supreme Court (of Justice of the Nation) and the Judiciary, when they made decisions contrary to the government’s plans.’

From this confrontation between powers, the arrest in June of Judge Angélica Sánchez, based in Veracruz, by police and members of the National Guard was cited as an example; she was accused of releasing a man charged with homicide.

Militarization and opacity

The organization warned of the persistence of militarization in the country during the government of López Obrador, who intends for Congress to approve a reform so that the National Guard becomes part of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), ‘denying the allegations of human rights violations presented by victims, civil society organizations, and human rights activists,’ and despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) has ordered otherwise, ‘considering that the National Guard was a civil entity and that its actions should be dictated by the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection.’

The organization highlighted that, in 2023, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued 28 recommendations to Sedena and the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) for torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances; one of those resolutions refers to the execution of five people by military personnel in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, events that occurred on February 26 of last year, but were made known in a video on May 18.

When mentioning the increase in military presence in public spaces, Amnesty International recalled that in January of last year, more than 6,000 members of the National Guard were deployed in the Mexico City Metro, ‘for supposed security reasons.’

The report accounts for ‘the lack of transparency, accountability, and access to information’ on the part of Sedena, after in October of last year the Commission for Access to Truth, Historical Clarification, and the Promotion of Justice for Serious Human Rights Violations committed from 1965 to 1990 denounced the ‘obstruction of access to historical documents’ about abuses committed by military personnel in that period.

Amnesty International included the case of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa teacher training college students as another case of lack of transparency by the Army, and of President López Obrador’s protection of the Armed Forces, after the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) decided to leave the country, following the military’s refusal to provide information on the case, while the president announced that the former prosecutor responsible for investigating the case, Omar Gómez Trejo, who tried to prosecute military personnel allegedly involved in the disappearance of the young people, which this year marks 10 years, would be investigated.”

Forced Disappearances and Arbitrariness

Amnesty International highlighted that in 2023, “the National Search Commission registered at least 12,031 new cases of missing and unlocated persons,” raising the number to 114,004 people by the end of last year.

The organization emphasized the resignation of the head of the National Search Commission (CNB), Karla Quintana Osuna, in August, “after the president announced the creation of a new census on the grounds that the figures from that body were unreliable and too high.”

Highlighting the lack of experience of Quintana’s successor, Teresa Guadalupe Reyes, Amnesty International pointed out that in December it was reported that, according to the new census, “there was insufficient information to search for 79,955” people.

The organization reported the murders of relatives of disappearance victims, such as Teresa Magueyal from Celaya, Guanajuato, who had been searching for her son since 2020; Griselda Armas, murdered along with her husband in Tacámbaro, Michoacán, who had been searching for their son since 2022, cases that prove the “serious dangers” faced by those searching for missing persons.

Among the relevant issues that occurred in Mexico included in the report were the two recent rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CoIDH) against Mexico, which instructed to eliminate pre-trial detention and modify the preventive detention system.

The first of the resolutions refers to the arbitrary detention, in 2006, of brothers Jorge and Gerardo Tzompaxtle Tecpile, and Gustavo Robles, who were held for three months under pre-trial detention and then two years in preventive detention, before being exonerated.

The second case, of Daniel García Rodríguez and Reyes Alpízar Ortiz, concerns the pre-trial detention and preventive detention for 17 years of these individuals accused of participating in a homicide in 2002.

To these rulings of the American court, was added the report of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, released in September, which “urged Mexican authorities to eliminate from the Constitution the provisions on mandatory preventive detention and pre-trial detention,” while expressing its “concern about the militarization” since 2006.

Journalists and Defenders

Amnesty International warned about the “disproportionate use of the judicial system to prosecute defenders of land, territory, and the environment,” recording cases of prosecutions of defenders for various crimes in Chiapas, Puebla, and Yucatán.

Regarding the situation of journalists and human rights defenders, the international organization took up reports from other groups such as Article 19 and Global Witness to refer to the record of the murder of at least five journalists and 31 environmental and territorial defenders, while the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-DH) counted 13 activists murdered last year.

Amnesty International included in its annual report information from the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which “registered at least 188 cases of kidnapping, threats, and physical aggression against people from these two groups.”

Meanwhile, in April and May of last year, new cases of the use of the Pegasus spy program against two members of the Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center and the former Undersecretary of Human Rights, Alejandro Encinas, were revealed, a situation that could be related to “the work these individuals were carrying out on serious human rights violations, such as the Ayotzinapa case.”

In its report, the international organization highlighted that “an average of nine women were murdered each day in 2023,” according to official data, which implies that “the number of cases of sexual violence and femicide remained high, and due diligence was not exercised to properly investigate these crimes.”

Migrants and Rights

When discussing the situation of migrants, the organization emphasized the case of the death of 40 men and injuries to another 29, due to a fire at a migrant station in Ciudad Juárez. It pointed out that “the government continued to fail to take measures to protect refugees and migrants,” despite the fact that in March of that year, the SCJN ordered that the maximum time to be held in a migrant station was 36 hours, after which they should be released.

The organization highlighted that the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (Comar) received 141,053 asylum applications from foreign nationals, mainly from Haiti, Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Among other relevant issues in human rights, the organization condemned the continued construction of the Maya Train, “despite concerns about its environmental impact,” as well as “the government’s persistent inaction to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and the start of operations at the Dos Bocas refinery.”

Regarding the rights of the LGBTIQ+ population, it warned that the civil codes in many states have not been modified to guarantee the right of same-sex couples to marry, despite it being federally recognized since 2015.

Source: Proceso