Mexico’s 100,000 ‘disappeared’ is a tragedy- UN official


By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, May 17, 2022 The news that more than 100,000 people in Mexico are now officially registered as “disappeared” is a tragedy, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet has said.

A national database had listed all those who had been reported missing in the country since 1964, and the tally continued to climb, amid ongoing drug gang violence and a lack of effective investigations.

UN rights office spokesperson Liz Throssell said on Tuesday that Bachelet called for action to tackle the country’s longstanding problem.

“To date, only 35 of the disappearances recorded since then have led to the conviction of the perpetrators, a staggering rate of impunity,’’ Throssell said in a statement.

The UN human rights chief urged the authorities to continue to implement reforms and ensure justice for the victims and their families.

“The crime of enforced disappearances is one of the worst things, for the families, precisely because they never get closure and rarely sadly are bodies found,” Throssell said.

“What is really important…is of course the steps that have been taken by the Mexican authorities, but as I have said, the High Commissioner is at pains to stress how important the role of families of the victims have been, to keep this issue at the forefront.”

According to Mexico’s database on disappeared individuals, about a quarter are women, and around a fifth were under 18 when they went missing.

The vast majority of cases where the date of disappearance was unknown – some 97 per cent – happened after December 2006, when Mexico transitioned to a militarised model of public security.

Bachelet also paid tribute to all the family members who had persevered over decades in pursuit of the truth and justice.

These individuals included Mrs Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, whose son Jesús Piedra Ibarra was forcibly disappeared in 1975.

Rosario, who died in April this year, helped to locate some 150 disappeared people alive and returned them to their families.

“During my visit to Mexico in 2019, I was able to see first-hand the courage of the victims’ families, who were key actors in organising and proposing solutions, and achieving legal and institutional progress towards recognizing the magnitude of this issue in Mexico,” the high commissioner said.

Mexico’s efforts to tackle the issue of its disappeared citizens included the adoption of the General Law on Disappearances, the creation of search committees in all states and the Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification.

A National Centre for Human Identification had also opened, along with committees to examine serious human rights violations that occurred between 1965 and 1990, in addition to the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa.

In 2018, a UN rights office report into the incident said that there were strong grounds to believe that the investigation was marred by torture and cover-ups.

In addition, there were “solid grounds” to conclude that at least 34 individuals were tortured, based on the judicial files, including medical records of multiple physical injuries, and on interviews with authorities, detainees and witnesses.

In 2020, Mexico recognised the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) to examine individual complaints.

In June 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court also recognised the binding nature of the CED’s Urgent Actions, which supports the right of each person affected by a disappearance to justice.

In November 2021, Mexico became the first country to accept an official visit by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances; it went to 13 Mexican states and held more than 150 meetings with authorities, victims’ organisations and Non-Governmental Organisation