CIDH report voices concern over treatment of child migrants in Mexico

Migrants travel aboard the notoriously dangerous train known as La Bestia in Mexico. Photo: Eduardo Verdugo, Associated Press.

Migrants travel aboard the notoriously dangerous train known as La Bestia in Mexico. Photo: Eduardo Verdugo, Associated Press.

08/26/14 (written by cmolzahn) — In its report entitled “Human rights of migrants and other persons in the context of human mobility in Mexico,” the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH) suggests that the Mexican government knew two years ago that the number of children migrating toward the United States had increased, but has since failed to act accordingly. The report was based on a visit by a CIDH delegation to Mexico in July and August of 2011, and details the abuses suffered by minors migrating alone through Mexico, particularly those from Central America. According to data from Mexico’s immigration authority (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM), in 2012 the number of minors detained in Mexico rose nearly 47% from the previous year to 6,107, a spike that the CIDH called “worrying.” Moreover, the CIDH stresses that control practices have not evolved sufficiently to adapt to the growing problem.

During its visit, the CIDH interviewed representatives from civic organizations and Mexican government officials who said that there had been steps taken in an attempt to adjust to the influx of unaccompanied child migrants, such as special sections added to detention centers. Aside from the dangers and abuses that the minors face in their attempts to cross through Mexico, often from agents of the police or Mexico’s INM), the CIDH also expressed concern over a “lack of data about crimes and human rights violations of which [the children] have been victims.” At the time of its visit, the CIDH found that the dangers presented by gangs and drug cartels in the areas where they lived were the primary motivating factor for the decision for the children to leave home.

The CIDH is requesting that the Mexican government “adopt special protection measures” for child migrants, and to acquire the expertise necessary to sufficiently handle their unique situations, which, said the CIDH visitors, sometimes include being used by criminal organizations in the trafficking of humans and drugs. Throughout its report, the authors criticized the Mexican government for criminalizing what it terms boys, girls, and adolescents (niños, niñas y adolescentes, NNA) found in the country without authorization by roundly incarcerating them in substandard migrant detention facilities, with little regard to international standards of family reunification, and without access to education or due legal process. Moreover, the CIDH visitors found that a large portion of the services offered to migrant children were from shelters provided by the Catholic Church, private citizens and NGOs.

For her part, Mexico’s Assistant Secretary of Population, Migration and Religious Affairs (Subsecretario de Población, Migración y Asuntos Religiosos) Mercedes del Carmen Guillén Vicente emphasized the Mexican government’s creation of children’s quarters within existing detention centers, as well as the creation of a position within INM known as Integral Childhood Protection Officials (Oficiales de Protección Integral de la Infancia, OPIs), who are federal migration agents charged with guaranteeing child migrants’ rights, including access to health services, food, clothing and rest, as well as facilitating parent contact via free telephone calls. Along the same lines, Guillén added that special units (Módulos de Atención) have been established in migration facilities to attend to unaccompanied minors. According to official records, as of October 2013 there were 493 OPIs nationwide. The Commission also recognized articles in Mexico’s Migration Law (Ley de Migración) that are closely in line with international standards, but criticize that in practice alternatives to detention are the exception rather than the rule. The report urges legislative measures that guarantee that minors—both accompanied and unaccompanied—never be placed in migratory detention centers, but rather be attended to by a separate entity specialized in the treatment of such cases.

The rapid influx of mostly Central American migrants—many of whom are unaccompanied minors—to the United States’ southern border with Mexico has stretched resources, rekindled the partisan debate over immigration reform, and resulted in the deployment of National Guard troops to help in containment efforts. According to official records, more than 61,000 Central American and Mexican minors were apprehended attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between October 2013 and July of this year. Moreover, according to the INM, around 140,000 people cross illegally into Mexico from Guatemala each year.

Sources:

“Derechos humanos de los migrantes y otras personas en el contexto de la movilidad humana en México.” Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. December. 30, 2013.

“México sabía del aumento de niños migrantes desde hace dos años: CIDH.” CNN México. August 18, 2014.

Ministry of the Interior releases more data on disappeared persons in Mexico

Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benítez (right) and SEGOB Undersecretary for Human Rights Lia Limón. Photo: Victor Camacho, La Jornada.

Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benítez (right) and SEGOB Undersecretary for Human Rights Lia Limón. Photo: Victor Camacho, La Jornada.

08/23/14 — Mexico’s Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB) released conflicting data again on the number of disappeared persons (desaparecidos) in Mexico. In a message delivered on August 21 by Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benítez, alongside SEGOB Undersecretary for Human Rights Lia Limón, the Mexican government announced that there are 22,322 missing persons, of which 12,532 occurred under the Calderón administration (2006-2012) and 9,790 under the Peña Nieto administration (2012-2018). This is an increase in the number reported by Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong in June when SEGOB confirmed that there were 16,000 missing, data which he clarified after releasing confusing reports in May saying there 8,000 disappearances. After President Felipe Calderón left office in 2012, the database of missing persons was just over 26,000, though Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) increased that number to 29,707. With SEGOB’s clarification, the combined lists of current disappearances under the Calderón and Peña Nieto administrations now stands at over 22,300.

The Mexican government has faced intense criticism from local, national, and international organizations to do more to curb the problem of disappearances. As such, when President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012 through July 31, 2014, efforts to locate missing persons resulted in the discovery of 13,444 such persons, 95% of who were alive (12,821). This number, explains Proceso, is in addition to the over 17,000 persons located that disappeared under the Calderón administration, 95% of who were also found alive (16,274). In addition, the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) created a Disappeared Persons Task Force (Unidad Especializada de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas, UEBPD) in May 2013, which directs, coordinates, and supervises the search for disappeared persons across the country, as well as prosecutes cases and identify remains, among other responsibilities. Although the task force has been criticized for underperforming and lacking clarity, the PGR is working to strengthen it, having recently created a new two-week training program for task force personnel to better understand human rights and develop special skills needed to search for disappeared persons.

Still, critics have long argued that the government needs to do more, including strengthening efforts to find disappeared persons, and holding those responsible accountable. In particular, the inconsistency in the government’s reported data in recent months exemplifies the need for a more efficient database and tracking mechanisms.

Sources:

“Ministry of the Interior confirms 16,000 disappeared in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. June 21, 2014.

“Mexico’s Disappeared Persons Task Force in operation despite criticism.” Justice in Mexico. July 10, 2014.

Associated Press. “Mexico Increases Number of Missing to 22,322.” ABC News. August 21, 2014.

Delgado, Álvaro. “En México hay 22 mil 322 personas ‘no localizadas.’” Proceso. August 21, 2014.

Martínez, Fabiola. “’No localizadas’, 22 mil 322 personas en el país: subprocuradora Benítez.” La Jornada. August 22, 2014.

“In Mexico There Are 22,332 ‘Missing’ People.” Mexico Voices. August 22, 2014.

New committee created to evaluate NSJP implementation

Photo: C7 Noticias.

Photo: C7 Noticias.

08/18/14 — Mexico’s Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB) recently announced the creation of a new committee that will regularly evaluate and monitor the implementation efforts of the new criminal justice system (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). The Evaluation and Monitoring Committee (Comté de Evaluación y Seguimiento de la Implementación del NSJP) will report directly to Mexico’s NSJP Coordination Council (Consejo de Coordinación), delivering a bi-annual summary on their findings. According to El Universal, “The purpose of the committee is to generate, process, and analyze information to measure the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of the implementation of the criminal justice system, in order to strengthen the decision-making process of the institutions and leaders in federal organizations and at the federal level.” The Council also approved eight other justice reform measures when it approved the creation of the Committee in July, including the creation of a working group at the local level to assist in accelerating the NSJP implementation.

The agreement to create the Committee, which was passed in the Coordination Committee’s XII Session Meeting on July 14, 2014, was published in Mexico’s Official Journal of the Federation (Diario Oficial de la Federación, DOF) in the first week of August. As it explains, the group will be made from representatives from each of the following entities: the Legal Executive Office (Consejería del Ejecutivo Federal), the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados), the Senate (Senado), the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN), the Federal Judiciary Council (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, CJF), the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), the National Conference of Attorney Generals (Conferencia Nacional de Procuración de Justicia), the National Security Commission (Comisión Nacional de Seguridad, CNS), and from the academic and civil society organizations, among others. The representatives must be “distinct persons” with an “expert profile,” and “with experience related to the generating of statistical information, indicators, and measures, among others, to be able to adequately and efficiently track the implementation of the [new justice] system,” reads the agreement. For his part, Alejandro Martí, a well-known human rights activist and founder of the México S.O.S. organization, was already named as the representative for civil societies.

The creation of the new monitoring committee will likely appease critics who have long called for more stringent tracking measures of the NSJP’s implementation. With less than two years remaining until the criminal justice system is required to be fully operational nationwide, the NSJP Coordination Council hopes the committee will help keep those efforts on track as there is still plenty to be done. According to Reforma, “to date, only three states have the justice system fully operational with oral trials (State of Mexico, Chihuaha, and Morelos); another 13 partially operational; 12 more will begin operating in the coming months; and the remaining four (Federal District, Michoacán, Campeche, and Sonora) won’t start until 2015 and 2016.”

Sources:

Notimex. “Dan a conocer acuerdos para aplicar Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal.” Uniradio Informa. August 6, 2014.

Redacción. “Crean comté para evaluar reforma penal.” Reforma. August 6, 2014.

El Universal. “Publican acuerdos para implementación del Sistema de Justicia.” Vanguardia. August 7, 2014.

Chiapas, Puebla in discussion to overturn laws regulating police force in public demonstrations

Protestors march in Puebla against Ley Bala. Photo: El Independiente.

Protestors march in Puebla against Ley Bala. Photo: El Independiente.

08/18/14 (written by akearns) — The state governments of Chiapas and Puebla have taken steps recently to repeal controversial laws that “regulate” the use of police force and use of weapons against public protestors and demonstrators. While Chiapas has outright overturned its law, Puebla’s governor, Rafael Moreno Valle, called for his state law’s repeal, passing it to Congress for approval. Although the legislature voted overwhelming in favor of overturning the law (33-2-2), it will remain in effect until the end of the year while investigations, research, and discussions are held to explore the best steps forward to replacing or reforming the law.

The so-called “Garrote Law” (Ley de Garrote”) in Chiapas and the “Bullet Law” (“Ley Bala”) in Puebla have only been in effect for several months, having been approved May 15 and May 19, 2014, respectively. Since then, however, critics have called for the states to repeal the measures, arguing the unconstitutionality of the laws. Not only do they increase the risk of excessive police force in unwarranted, public situations, critics argue, but they also undermine the public’s freedom speech, deterring public demonstrations and protests for fear of the police’s crackdown. As Proceso explains in a Mexico Voices translation, “Miguel Ángel de los Santos Cruz, an attorney and human rights defender [in Mexico], questioned the [law’s] initiative, saying that it was a step backwards on the issue of human right.” For its part, Artículo 19, an “international organization promoting and defending freedom of express, had filed several legal challenges with the Federal Judiciary on charges that such legislation was unconstitutional.”

Members of Mexico's National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) examine photos and evidence of Tamayo. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Members of Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) examine photos and evidence of José Luis Tehuatlie Tamayo. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

The Ley Bala in Puebla has been particularly controversial since its implementation. The Law to Protect Human Rights and to Regulate the Legitimate Use of Public Force (Ley para Proteger los Derechos Humanos y Regular el Uso Legítimo de la Fuerza Pública), as it is officially named, was passed by the state government under Governor Rafael Moreno Valle’s administration, allowing police to use “non-lethal incapacitating arms” against citizens, explains Milenio. Just two months after its approval into force, however, a young boy was allegedly killed by a rubber bullet fired by police during a protest. On July 9, citizens of San Bernardino Chalchihuapan, Puebla, blocked a portion of a nearby highway to protest against the Moreno Valle administration, specifically protesting the Ley Bala; the government’s proposed shut down of several auxiliary government offices, including the Office of the Registrar (Registro Civil); and more generally the state’s increased authoritarian rule. “The state of Puebla is in a period of high social and political vulnerability as a consequence of the gradual and consistent increase in the Executive Branch’s authoritarianism, and the absence of equalizing and balancing measures that should be exercised by the Legislative and Judicial Branches,” explained the protestors’ official statement. When police confronted the protestors to remove the blockade, reports indicate that police fired rubber bullets and arrested four participants, all of whom have since been released. However, José Luis Tehuatlie Tamayo (13), who was walking home from school during the confrontation, was allegedly hit by one errant rubber bullet, leading to his hospitalization and subsequent death ten days later.

According to CNN México, the mother of Tehuatlie Tamayo has spoken out against Governor Moreno Valle and the State Police, saying that the government tried to pay her for her silence on the matter. Luis Arturo Cornejo Alatorre, Puebla’s undersecretary of Political Issues and Civil Protection within the Ministry of the Interior (Asuntos Políticos y Protección Civil de la Secretaría de Gobierno), rejected those claims, as have representatives of the state government who argue that Tehuatle Tamayo did not die from a rubber bullet wound, but rather from being struck by a handheld explosive used by the protestors. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has since launched an investigation into the boy’s death and the police’s use of force at the July 9 demonstration.

Although reports on the matter are not clear, Tehuatlie Tamayo’s killing nevertheless added pressure to the already building controversy surrounding Ley Bala and the citizens’ unrest with Governor Moreno Valle. On August 10, citizens marched in the city of San Bernardino Chalchihuapan protesting the boy’s death and demanding the governor’s impeachment. Protestors, which some estimates say numbered between 8,000 and 10,000, carried signs reading, “This is not Gaza, this is Puebla,” “Governor Bullet: No More Death OR Repression!” and “Indigenous Communities Demand Respect and Citizen Consultation!” among others. Such demonstrations seem to signify that as politicians await the CNDH’s investigation before moving forward with potential reforms to the Ley Bala, citizens will continue to protest against the government and demand political justice against Governor Moreno Valle.

Sources:

Redacción. “Deroga Congreso de Puebla ‘ley bala.’” El Independiente de Hidalgo. July 23, 2014. 

“’El gobierno de Puebla buscó pagar mi silencio’: Madre de menor fallecido.” CNN México. July 25, 2014. 

“Marcha contra la ‘Ley bala’ llega a la Ciudad de México desde Puebla.” CNN México. July 28, 2014. 

Hernández, Gabriela. “’Ley Bala’ sigue vigente en Puebla; no es prioridad abrogarla, dicen PRI y PAN.” Proceso. August 1, 2014.  

Porras Lara, Rosa Emilia. “¿Quién mató a José Luis Tehuatlie Tamayo?” Milenio. August 8, 2014. 

Hernández, Gabriela. “Marchan miles en Puebla y exigen juicio político contra Moreno Valle.” Proceso. August 10, 2014. 

Mandujano, Isaín. “Deroga Chiapas la ‘Ley Garrote’, similar a la ‘Ley Bala’ de Moreno Valle.” Proceso. August 11, 2014.  

“Puebla: Thousands March Calling for Governor’s Impeachment.” Mexico Voices. August 11, 2014.

“Chiapas Legislature Repeals ‘Garrote Law’ Similar to Puebla’s ‘Bullet Law.’” Mexico Voices. August 12, 2014.

Federal forces to maintain presence in Tamaulipas

Photo: Francisco Olvera, La Jornada.

Photo: Francisco Olvera, La Jornada.

08/13/14 — Authorities have made clear that the presence of federal police and military elements will remain in Tamaulipas, at least for the time being. Like many areas throughout Mexico, Tamaulipas has been hit hard by drug-related violence and criminal activity, pushing the government to deploy the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) and the military (Secretarías de Defensa Nacional and Marina, SEDENA and SEMAR) to quell the violence and restore public security. As such, the federal government created, and will continue, the “New Security Strategy” (Nueva Fase en la Estrategia de Seguridad), an operation that went into effect on May 13.

Under that strategy, federal troops took control of the state’s security, instituting a 24/7 security watch in the state’s urban zones, along specified highways, and at the airport. They also named four regional prosecutors and created a Police Training and Investigation Institute, which falls in line with one of the security strategy’s objectives of cleaning and vetting all police forces in Tamaulipas. Since the operation began, the Tamaulipas Coordination Group (Grupo de Coodinación Tamaulipas, GCT) has brought down eight of the 14 priority organized crime suspects, including two regional leaders from Los Zetas and one from the Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo, CDG), who were apprehended in the first two weeks of the operation. The efforts continue as Federal Police recently rescued 24 kidnapped victims on August 11 that were being held in Reynosa, 11 from Central American and the remaining 13 from Mexico.

Families interact with members of Mexico's armed forces at the expo in Reynosa on August 9. Photo: La Verdad de Tamaulipas.

Families interact with members of Mexico’s armed forces at the expo in Reynosa on August 9. Photo: La Verdad de Tamaulipas.

As authorities applaud such work being done under the security strategy, they have reiterated the government’s commitment to maintaining the federal forces’ presence. “Not one member of the Army, Navy, nor the Federal Police will be removed from Tamaulipas until the levels of violence in the state decrease,” affirmed General Arturo Gutiérrez García, the secretary of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) in Tamaulipas. For its part, the government is also taking steps to boost the armed forces’ public image, hosting an exposition on August 9 in Reynosa for Tamaulipas residents to interact with troops and learn more about their role in public security. The “Armed Forces and Civil Society United for Courage in Tamaulipas” (“Fuerzas armadas y sociedad civil unidos por los valores en Tamaulipas”) event was intended to help pacify relations between civilians and armed forces, given the latter’s current presence in everyday life in Tamaulipas. An increased military presence and militarized public security strategy has had serious ramifications in Mexico, with coinciding rises in allegations of human rights violations committed by the military. The expo was held in part to help neutralize relations between armed forces and civil society, giving residents the opportunity to engage and interact with troops while recognizing the common goal of strengthening public security in Tamaulipas.

Sources:

“Federal government implements new security strategy in Tamaulipas.” Justice in Mexico. May 31, 2014.  

Agencias. “Trabajan fuerzas federales por regresar la paz a Tamaulipas.” La Verdad de Tamaulipas. August 9, 2014. 

Alvarado, Noel F. “Fuerzas federales liberan a 24 secuestrados en Tamaulipas.” La Prensa. August 11, 2014. 

Castellanos Terán, David. “Ningún elemento del Ejército se retirará de Tamaulipas hasta bajar delincuencia: Gutiérrez García.” La Jornada. August 13, 2014.