An inadequate security strategy, poor investigations into missing person cases and impunity are key factors in the persistence of abductions in Mexico, according to the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED).
Speaking on Friday at the conclusion of a 12-day visit to Mexico, CED president Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana said “disappearances are not just a phenomenon of the past” but an ongoing scourge.
She noted that more than 95,000 people are currently considered missing in Mexico, and estimated that more than 100 probably disappeared during the CED’s tour of 13 states to meet with authorities and assess the country’s capacity to respond to the crisis.
“The profound causes of disappearances haven’t been dealt with. The security approach that has been adopted is not only insufficient but also inadequate. Impunity is almost absolute,” Villa told a press conference.
The Peruvian lawyer said that searching for victims and investigating missing person cases are not always priorities for Mexican authorities.
Villa also said that the federal government needs a comprehensive strategy to deal with the multiple causes of impunity, among which she cited the ineffectiveness of investigations, inaction of authorities and a law enforcement system that “conserves the inertias of the past.”
She said a range of factors inhibit people’s capacity to access justice in missing person cases, including a lack of legal assistance for victims’ families and geographical obstacles.
“We recognize that the challenge is enormous. No process or mechanism can be successful if it doesn’t have political will [and] effective participation of victims as well as sufficient financial resources and duly trained, competent and committed personnel,” Villa said said.
The CED chief also raised concerns about the lack of coordination between attorney general’s offices, the federal government’s militarized public security strategy and the “forensic crisis” of more than 52,000 unidentified bodies in morgues and common graves.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who met with the CED members on Friday, said the federal government recognizes that it faces a range of challenges in the area. He said the CED, which is due to deliver a report on its findings next March, could help Mexico strengthen its capacity to prevent disappearances, investigate missing persons cases and search for victims.
As things currently stand, there is no “clear policy from the current government” to confront the problem, a member of Movimiento por Nuestros Desaparecidos (Movement for Our Missing People), an NGO, told the newspaper Milenio.
“There might be [political] will but that doesn’t translate into actions and of course it doesn’t translate into a clear and convincing budget that can help build a better Mexico” in which disappearances decline, said Martín Villalobos.
With reports from Milenio