Human Rights and Civil Society

Forced “Disappearances” a Growing Problem in Mexico

Photo: AFP

09/20/12—Over 3,000 people have “disappeared” in Mexico since 2006, according to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Forced disappearances in Mexico have increased since the Mexican Military began its offensive against drug cartels in 2006, which has resulted in over 50,000 deaths. According to Terra news, young people in poor areas, for example, often find themselves subject to threats of forcible recruitment into drug cartels.

Amnesty International and the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, CMDPDH) recently issued a joint statement condemning this situation, and the Mexican government’s inaction against it. The statement criticizes the Mexican government’s “lack of political will” to eliminate this type of crime, according to El Universal. It specifically faults the legislature for failing to amend the criminal code to explicitly criminalize forced disappearance, despite the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ recommendation to do so three years ago. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) corroborates this trend with data of its own, which shows that from 2006 to 2011 reports of forced disappearances have risen from four per year, up to 153. The total number of reported incidents in this five-year span was 390, with 71% of them occurring in the last two years of the period.

Perhaps most troubling, the CNDH has recently issued multiple recommendations on forced disappearance cases that appear to have involved members of the Armed Forces (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) as perpetrators. As an example, case 38/2012 dealt with a victim who was “arbitrarily detained” and “tortured” by members of the 21st Military Batallion. Once he was unconscious, he was taken to a remote area in the state of Puebla, apparently with the intentions of “bury[ing] him [there] alive.” In another recent case, 39/2012, the CNDH issued a recommendation to the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR), reproaching it for failing to properly investigate the disappearance of six men in the state of Tamaulipas in which its personnel are allegedly involved. To read more about the alleged involvement of the Mexican military in human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, click here to download the Trans-Border Institute’s recent publication, “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.”

In the Amnesty International joint statement with the CMDPDH, a range of other civil society organizations, such as the Coahuila United Forces for Our Disappeared (Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos de Coahuila), voiced their call for the Mexican government to take “concrete action to demonstrate a true commitment to eradicating forced disappearances.”


Otero, Silvia. “Advierten aumento de desaparición forzada.” El Universal. August 31, 2012.

“AI y ONG piden a gobierno mexicano acciones contra desapariciones forzadas.” Terra Noticias. August 30, 2012.

“México, sin voluntad contra desapariciones forzadas.” El Informador. August 30, 2012.

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