Human Rights and Civil Society

Record Number of Minors Detained Provokes Calls for Human Rights Investigation

Minors apprehended on Sunday, July 16, in Mexico City are transported to police facilities following the violence that arose after large crowds were turned away from entering a reggae-ton concert. Photo: Excélsior, Cuartoscuro

07/18/12 – A record breaking 230 persons–175 of which were minors (176%)–were taken into custody by Mexico City (Federal District, DF) police after an outbreak of violence at a bar around 5:00pm in the evening on Sunday, July 16. The bar was hosting a reggae-ton concert that night and quickly found itself overwhelmed by the massive number of unexpected attendees, who turned violent after being turned away due to capacity limitations. Police were called upon to diffuse the situation and, upon arrival, proceeded to detain nearly 230 people, a department record, for questioning related to incidences of violence, looting, vandalism, and setting off fireworks. The Los Angeles Times reported that 91 of the initial 175 minors detained were released that same day for “lack of evidence.”

Calls of human rights violations abound, as the number of detentions has been called unreasonable and illogical by Luis González Placencia, president of the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH). As reported by Mexican newspaper La Crónica de Hoy, Placencia said that “He hope[s] the local Secretary of Public Security [Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP] has the relevant evidence to indict all young people, over half of them children; otherwise, they committed a serious excess of arbitrary arrests, discrimination, and abuse of authority.” Critics are claiming that the detainees were apprehended because of their physical appearance and social standing, not necessarily for being involved in criminal activity. Placencia added, “The message is sent that when a youth appears to belong to a lower class, they are subject to the [unfair] scrutiny of the police.”

Mass gatherings of minors in the past have occurred without incident, as evidenced by the recent elections in Mexico and the resulting #YoSoy132 movement. However, this is not the first time police from Mexico City have been accused of mistreating minors. For example, as the Justice in Mexico Project referenced in its June 2012 monthly news report, 12 people were killed–four of which were minors–in an underage drinking raid in Mexico City in 2008 when Federal District police blocked the only exit of the News Divine night club they stormed.

With regard to the recent July 16 incident, a complaint has been filed with the Attorney General’s office (Procuraduría General de la Justicia) in Mexico City. According to the Federal District’s Human Rights Commission (Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal, CDHDF), such actions Sunday by the police serve to criminalize (or re-criminalize) youth based on social stature. The human rights commissions noted, however, that they do not portend to assume the innocence of all parties detained. Placencia says that the hope is that those who engaged in criminal activity were arrested with cause, but that the holdings of those seemingly based on physical appearance and perceived social standing without concrete evidence are rightfully classified as an abuse of police power.


Martínez, Fernando. “Operativo contra reggaetoneros tuvo anomalías: CDHDF.” El Universal. July 16, 2012.

Associated Press. “Mexico City police detains more than 200 youths for questioning after flash mob rampage.” Washington Post. July 17, 2012. 

Yáñez G., Israel. “La policía criminalizó, como en News Divine, a los jóvenes que arrestó el domingo, acusa la CDHDF; “los detuvo por su apariencia.” La Crónica de Hoy. July 17, 2012.

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