Unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and violence against women and girls are among a range of human rights violations cited by Amnesty International (AI) in a new report.
In the Mexico section of its 2020-2021 human rights report, AI cited three unlawful killings perpetrated by Mexican security forces last year.
They were the death of 30-year-old Giovanni López Ramírez, who was allegedly killed by municipal police in Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, Jalisco, last May after being arrested for not wearing a face mask; the army’s execution last July of 19-year-old Arturo Garza, an unarmed survivor of a shootout in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, between the military and a criminal group; and the alleged murder last October of 35-year-old Yéssica Silva by the National Guard, which opened fire on her vehicle in Delicias, Chihuahua, as she returned home from a farmers’ water rights protest.
In the “Extrajudicial Killings” sub-section of its Mexico report, AI said that the federal Attorney General’s Office attempted to close the investigation into the killing of 22 people by soldiers in Tlatlaya, México state, in 2014, before having properly investigated chain-of-command responsibility in the case.
However, the attempted closure was halted by victims’ representatives, the organization said.
It came to light last week that the Ministry of National Defense last month secretly rearrested seven soldiers in connection with the incident, known as the Tlatlaya massacre.
AI noted that President López Obrador signed a decree last May ordering the armed forces to be permanently deployed in public security operations until March 2024. But the decree didn’t include “substantive regulations to ensure their conduct was consistent with international standards,” the report said.
AI also raised concerns about the arbitrary detention of at least 27 people during protests in Guadalajara last June triggered by the death of Giovanni López.
“Protesters were abducted in unmarked vehicles, and their whereabouts were unknown for several hours. Local organizations reported that at least 20 of these detentions could amount to enforced disappearances,” the report said.
It added that such disappearances by state agents and disappearances carried out by nonstate actors continued to be a concern. “Those suspected of criminal responsibility enjoyed almost total impunity,” AI said.
Entitled The State of the World’s Human Rights, the report noted that almost 7,000 people were registered as missing in Mexico in 2020, and almost 64,000 disappeared over the past decade.
In the “Violence against Women and Girls” subsection, AI acknowledged that the femicides in February 2020 of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla, whose body was skinned by her partner, and 7-year-old Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón, whose body was found in a plastic bag, “sparked outrage, leading to unprecedented attendance at social protests on International Women’s Day.”
“… During 2020, 3,752 killings of women were reported, 969 of which were investigated as femicides,” the report said.
It also said that up to December, there were just over 260,000 calls to the 911 emergency line to report incidents of violence against women, a 32% increase compared to the entire previous year.
The NGO also noted that the government slashed 75% of the National Women’s Institute operational funding last July and asserted that President López Obrador “continued to downplay the issue of violence against women, questioning the validity of calls made to emergency services to report domestic violence and criticizing women’s protests against femicides.
In addition, AI noted that the National Human Rights Commission’s Mexico City headquarters was taken over by women protesting the lack of progress by authorities on the issue of violence against women, adding that “alerts of gender-based violence against women” remained operational in 18 states.
With regard to sexual and reproductive rights, the human rights organization noted that the Supreme Court rejected an injunction request last July that sought to change the legislation criminalizing abortion in Veracruz. Abortion activists had been optimistic that the court would deliver a landmark ruling that would pave the way for the decriminalization of abortion across Mexico.
The report said that human rights defenders continued to be attacked and harassed, noting that 24 such people were killed last year.
“Defenders of environmental and indigenous peoples’ human rights expressed concern about the Maya Train mega project. The president responded by publicly accusing them of being ‘false environmentalists,’” it said.
AI also noted that media workers continued to be threatened, harassed and attacked last year and that at least 19 journalists were killed.
“The president stigmatized human rights defenders and the media on various occasions,” the report said.
“… In September, a letter signed by 650 journalists and academics accused the president of actions harmful to freedom of expression, including a series of public statements undermining the press, permitting an environment conducive to censorship, administrative sanctions and misuse of the law to intimidate the press.”
AI also noted in the report’s “Freedoms of Expression and Assembly” subsection that police in León, Guanajuato, arbitrarily detained 22 women and beat and sexually assaulted several women and girls during a women’s protest last August.
“In November, in Cancún, police used live ammunition on a series of mostly peaceful protest by women protesting against femicides,” the report added.
AI also said that torture and other ill-treatment by Mexican authorities remained a concern in 2020 and that migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers continued to face excessive use of force and arbitrary detention by authorities, as well as abductions, assaults and killings by nonstate actors.
“Civil society organizations presented several injunctions between April and the end of the year requesting the release of all people in immigration detention and an end to such detentions due to the Covid-19 risk. A federal judge in Mexico City ruled that all those in immigration detention should be released. However, authorities failed to comply with the ruling and detentions continued, depriving migrants not only of their right to health but also to liberty,” the report said.
Mexican authorities have further ramped up enforcement against migrants in recent weeks.
Amnesty International also raised concerns about the federal government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 205,000 lives, according to the official tally, which is widely considered a significant undercount.
“The government responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with cuts to public spending in various areas. Health workers reported that they lacked access to personal protective equipment [PPE] and the benefits needed to ensure a safe working environment,” the report said.
At least 2,397 health workers died with Covid-19 in Mexico last year, AI noted. It also acknowledged that several health workers were physically attacked in public places or on public transport during the pandemic.
In the broader Americas region, “government responses to the [coronavirus] crisis had far-reaching impacts on human rights, with frequently devastating consequences for vast numbers of people,” the report said.
“The region, home to just 13% of the world’s population, recorded 49% of all Covid-19-19 deaths globally [in 2020]. Lack of PPE plus poor and precarious working conditions, exacted a terrible toll on health workers, who were often prohibited from speaking out and sanctioned if they did.”
Mexico News Daily