There are “strong indications” that federal security forces were responsible for the disappearance of 23 people, including at least five minors, in Tamaulipas over the past four months, the United Nations (UN) said today.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that its Mexican office had documented the disappearance of 21 men and two women in Nuevo Laredo from February until May 16.
In the same period, a local human rights organization recorded at least 40 disappearances.
The statement said that according to testimony received by the UN Human Rights Office a federal security force allegedly perpetrated the disappearances, “often late at night or at dawn.”
The UN said that “people were reportedly detained by uniformed personnel as they walked or drove along public roads,” adding that “several burnt out and bullet-ridden vehicles [have been] found by the roadside.”
Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Mexican authorities to “take urgent steps” to put an end to the wave of disappearances in and around the northern border city.
He also strongly condemned the arbitrary nature of the disappearances and the fact that minors have been affected.
“Many of these people are reported to have been arbitrarily detained and disappeared while going about their daily lives. It is particularly horrific that at least five of the victims are minors, with three of them as young as 14. These crimes, perpetrated over four months in a single municipality, are outrageous,” Zeid said.
The commissioner also noted that authorities have made little progress in locating the victims and investigating what happened to them despite there being “ample information and evidence.”
Instead, victims’ families have undertaken their own searches in some cases, the statement said, adding that to date they have found the bodies of at least six disappeared persons.
Several witnesses to the crimes have subsequently received threats and one was disappeared for two days, the UN said.
Relatives of missing people have been carrying out protests in Nuevo Laredo during the past few weeks. The most recent closed a truck crossing at the border for a day last week, snarling traffic on both sides of the border.
Those protesters claimed the navy was involved in the disappearance of family members.
“It is vital the Mexican authorities carry out an effective search for those whose whereabouts are still unknown and to conduct a diligent, independent and complete investigation to find out what happened, identify those responsible and ensure they are brought to justice,” Zeid said.
“They must also grant protection to witnesses and defenders, and assistance to victims’ relatives,” he added.
Following the spate of disappearances, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) on May 10 issued a series of precautionary measures to authorities including the Mexican navy, to protect residents of Tamaulipas.
But at least three more disappearances have occurred since then, the UN said.
“It is extremely worrying that these enforced disappearances are taking place just a few months after the adoption of the General Law on Disappearances,” Zeid said.
“What has been happening in Nuevo Laredo is a litmus test of whether this new law actually represents the change its adoption promises or whether enforced disappearances, followed by impunity and a lack of reparation to the victims, will continue.”
The high commissioner also charged that “states have the obligation to guarantee” their citizens’ security.
“In the case of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions carried out by public officials, it is even more urgent for the state to act to demonstrate that it neither condones nor tolerates the commission of such grave violations.”
The assistant director for Mexico at the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and advocacy group, described government silence on disappearances as “really unacceptable.”
Ximena Suarez-Enriquez said the government must “come out and clarify if they are investigating these cases and if there are members of the navy or the military involved,” the Washington Post reported.
Mexico News Daily