The international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has lambasted Mexico in a new report, asserting that a wide range of human rights violations have continued since President López Obrador took office just over three years ago.
“Human rights violations – including torture, enforced disappearances, abuses against migrants, extrajudicial killings, gender-based violence, and attacks on independent journalists and human rights defenders – have continued” under López Obrador, HRW said in the Mexico section of World Report 2022: Events of 2021.
“Impunity remains the norm. Legal reforms enacted in 2017 and 2018 have been slow and ineffective in addressing torture and impunity,” the NGO said.
In 12 sub-sections, HRW’s report evaluated the human rights situation in Mexico. In the first of those sub-sections it said that the criminal justice system routinely fails to provide justice to victims of violent crimes and human rights violations.
“Only 5.2% of crimes committed in Mexico are solved, the non-governmental group México Evalúa reports. Causes of failure include corruption, inadequate training and resources, and complicity of prosecutors and public defenders with criminals and other abusive officials,” the report said.
“… Police and prosecutors commonly use torture to obtain confessions. … Prisons are notoriously unsanitary and overcrowded,” it added.
In the Military Abuses and Extrajudicial Killings sub-section, HRW noted that the National Human Rights Commission received 3,799 complaints of military abuses between 2013 and 2020.
“In July 2020, 12 civilians were killed in a shootout with soldiers in Tamaulipas state. A video leaked to the press in August showed a soldier giving the order to kill a civilian. … In March 2021, a lawyer for the families of victims told Reuters that no soldiers had yet been detained, despite the video evidence,” the report said.
“In September 2021, the Defense Ministry admitted that at least 47 people had been killed or injured by the armed forces during the López Obrador presidency. … The Defense Ministry has paid compensation to families but has not sanctioned any soldiers or reported the cases to police or prosecutors for criminal investigation.”
Torture, HRW said, is widely used by Mexican authorities to obtain confessions and extract information.
“It is most frequently applied after victims are detained, often arbitrarily, but before they are handed to civilian prosecutors. Victims are often held incommunicado at military bases or illegal detention sites,” the report said.
HRW asserted that authorities often fail to investigate allegations of torture and noted that 64% of prisoners surveyed by the national statistics agency INEGI in 2016 reported physical violence at the time of arrest, including electric shocks, choking, and smothering.
Under the Disappearances heading, the NGO noted that thousands of people vanish every year in Mexico and that police, the military, and criminal groups are responsible for many abductions.
It acknowledged there are more than 90,000 missing people in Mexico, most of whom disappeared in the past 15 years.
“More than 23,000 are listed as having disappeared since President López Obrador took office,” the report said.
In the Attacks on Journalists and Human Rights Defenders sub-section, HRW noted that such people often face attacks, harassment, and surveillance by government authorities and criminal groups, “particularly those who criticize public officials or expose the work of criminal cartels.”
“Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, on par with war zones like Syria and Afghanistan in number of journalists killed,” the report said.
“… Authorities routinely fail to investigate crimes against journalists adequately, often preemptively ruling out their profession as a motive,” it said.
“… Mexico is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders. From January through September 2021, the Mexico Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported 10 human rights defenders killed. As with journalists, violence against human rights defenders is rarely investigated or prosecuted.”
HRW asserted that Mexican laws don’t adequately protect females against gender-based and sexual violence.
“Some provisions, including those that peg the severity of punishments for sexual offenses to the ‘chastity’ of the victim, contradict international standards,” it said.
“… Women and girls continue to face alarming rates of gender-based violence. In 2020, the government reported nearly 1,000 femicides – killings of women because of their gender. Women’s rights groups say femicide is likely under-reported,” HRW said.
The report also touched on crimes against migrants: criminal cartels, common criminals, and sometimes police and immigration officials regularly target people migrating through Mexico to rob, kidnap, extort, rape, or kill them.
“These crimes are rarely reported, investigated, or punished,” it added.
“The López Obrador administration has actively participated in abusive U.S. immigration policies. It failed to provide police protection or access to justice, work, health care, and education for the over 71,000 asylum seekers, including many families with children, sent to Mexico under the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. Many suffered abuses from criminal cartels or Mexican authorities. President López Obrador said the program had produced ‘very good results,’” the report said.
“The López Obrador administration has been illegally expelling thousands of asylum seekers to Guatemala without due process, including many who were first expelled from the U.S. into the custody of Mexican authorities. … In September 2021, National Guard troops and Mexican immigration agents violently detained a series of caravans of asylum seekers in Chiapas state, leaving many injured.”
Mexico fared much better in the report’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity sub-section.
HRW noted that same sex marriage is legal in a majority of Mexico’s 32 states– currently 26 – and acknowledged that the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that a lesbian couple from Aguascalientes should be allowed to register a child born to one of the women as a child of both.
“Seventeen states have passed laws creating a procedure permitting transgender people to change their names and gender markers on birth certificates through a simple administrative process,” the report said.
With regard to the protection of the rights of people with disabilities, “serious gaps remain,” HRW said.
Under the rule of the current government, they lack access to justice, education, legal standing, legal capacity, protection from domestic violence, and informed consent in health decisions, the report said.
“… The only policy to assist people with disabilities is a non-contributive disability pension that reaches only 933,000 people of the 6,179,890 who live in the country. Its distribution is opaque and discretionary,” HRW said.
The NGO also excoriated the government for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, asserting that it has failed to take many of the basic steps recommended by global health authorities to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Mexico currently has the fifth highest COVID-19 death toll in the world with over 300,000 confirmed fatalities. Federal officials, including López Obrador, have downplayed the threat posed by the highly contagious omicron variant.
Mexico News Daily