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México / Disappearances: UN expert body makes wide-ranging recommendations to authorities

MEXICO CITY (1 April 2011) – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) made a series of recommendations* to the Mexican government ranging from prevention, investigation, punishment and reparation of enforced disappearances, to the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.

Three members of the five-strong body (Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur, from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mr. Ariel Dulitzky, from Argentina; and Mr. Osman El Hajjé, from Lebanon, visited Mexico from 18 to 31 March to learn about the status of the investigations of enforced disappearances, steps taken to prevent and eradicate the problem, what is being done to combat impunity, and other issues, including matters concerning truth, justice and reparations for victims of enforced disappearances.

The group of independent experts highlighted that there is a lack of a comprehensive public policy to deal with the different aspects of prevention, investigation, punishment and reparation of enforced disappearances. “It appears that there is no vertical and horizontal coordination among federal, local and municipal levels nor within the same level of government,” they said.

The public security concerns regarding organized crime are real and the WGEID recognized the right and duty of the State to take corresponding action. However, the experts said, “addressing this challenging situation cannot be done at the expense of respect for human rights or condone the practice of enforced disappearance. Nor can cases of enforced disappearance be exclusively attributed to organized crime without proper and full criminal investigation.”

The Working Group also noted that victims of enforced disappearances lack confidence in the judicial system, police and armed forces. “Impunity is a chronic and present pattern in cases of enforced disappearances and no sufficient efforts are being carried out neither to determine the fate or whereabouts of persons who disappeared, to punish those responsible nor to provide reparations,” the three experts underscored.

During its mission, the WGEID visited México City (Federal District); Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez (State of Chihuahua); Acapulco, Chilpancingo and Atoyac de Álvarez (State of Guerrero); and Saltillo (State of Coahuila), and met with several authorities at the federal and state levels. The experts also visited a military base in Saltillo.

The analysis of the information received during and prior to the visit, as well as any assessment relating to the locations visited, will be considered in the preparation of the report which will be presented to the Human Rights Council at a session in 2012.

The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa) and the other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitkzy (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France).

The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established.

The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

(*) Check the full text of the Working Group preliminary observations and recommendations: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10907&LangID=E

For more information on the WGEID, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Mexico: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/MXIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests:
Ms. Giovanna Zucchelli (Tel.:+ 41 / e-mail: gzucchello@ohchr.org)
Mr. Matías Pellado (Tel.: +41 / e-mail: mpellado@ohchr.org)
OHCHR México Office:
Rosa Gutiérrez (Tel.: +52 55 5061 6374 / e-mail: rgutierrez@ohchr.org)