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Mexico: UN Committee finds violations in first enforced disappearance case

04 May 2023

GENEVA (4 May 2023) – In its first decision on an individual complaint against Mexico, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) found that the State had violated its obligations to conduct a prompt, exhaustive and impartial investigation of the disappearance of a young Mexican man who was removed from his home by armed men in police uniforms.

In its decision published today , the Committee considered that since there was sufficient evidence of the involvement of State agents, the State had the burden of proving, through an investigation carried out with due diligence, that the disappearance was not caused by the direct participation of State agents or by people acting with the authorisation or acquiescence of the State. In the absence of such an investigation, the Committee concluded that the victim was subjected to enforced disappearance.

“This is an important decision that, for the first time, establishes and concretizes the standards for the diligent search for victims of enforced disappearance and for carrying out effective investigations to bring those responsible to justice. We hope that the guidelines set in this case will provide Mexico with the necessary tools to combat the scourge of enforced disappearance that plagues the country and to put an end to a situation of almost absolute impunity, of which this case is just one example,” said Committee member, Juan José López Ortega.

“Any investigation must be undertaken seriously and not as a mere formality, which is doomed to be fruitless. States parties cannot depend on the procedural initiative of victims or their relatives or on the private provision of evidence, without effectively seeking the truth,” the Committee said in its Views.

Yonathan Mendoza Berrospe was 17 when a group of approximately six men violently entered his home in the City of Veracruz, where he lived with his family, in December 2013. The men carried long and short firearms, balaclavas, police boots and bulletproof vests with “police” written on the front and back. At the same time, more than a dozen remained outside, taking part in what appeared to be a security operation. The men beat and handcuffed Mendoza Berrospe and put him in a black suburban van. According to several witnesses, the abductors came and left in several vehicles; some belonged to the Naval Police under the purview of the Secretary of the Navy, and others belonged to the State Police of Veracruz.

When Mendoza Berrospe’s family went to the detention centre of the Naval Police in Playa Linda to look for him, they saw some of the vehicles which had allegedly participated in his disappearance. The family soon lodged a complaint before the State prosecuting authorities and filed a habeas corpus before a district court of Veracruz, challenging the secret and unlawful detention.

By June 2015, the habeas corpus was archived after receiving no information on Mendoza Berrospe’s disappearance from local, State, and federal security forces and prosecution authorities. Neither the investigation at the State level nor that at the Federal level located his whereabouts, nor did they bring those responsible to justice. Mendoza Berrospe’s mother then brought the case to the Committee in July 2021, shortly after Mexico recognized the Committee’s competence to examine individual communications against it.

The Committee noted that most investigative measures mentioned by the State party were carried out after 2019, and that most search actions mentioned by the State party were carried out after 2021, namely, six and eight years after the disappearance, respectively. The Committee thus found that the State authorities did not proceed without delay to conduct an exhaustive and impartial investigation as required by Article 12 and to take all measures to search for the victim as required by Article 24 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Given that what happened to Mendoza Berrospe and his whereabouts are still unknown, and that the victims had not received any reparation, the Committee also found that Mexico had violated their right to know the truth and to reparation.

The Committee requested that Mexico guarantee an exhaustive and diligent search and investigation of Mendoza Berrospe’s enforced disappearance, prosecute those responsible, including all levels of state agents, and provide an adequate remedy to his family.

“This case, like many others in Mexico, is sadly marked by impunity due to the lack of response from the authorities and the absence of prompt and adequate actions to search for the disappeared person and investigate their disappearance. We trust that following this decision, all State authorities will comply with the commitments assumed by Mexico upon ratifying the Convention. In doing so, we hope that we have been able to contribute to bringing justice to the victims by helping the State to clarify the fate of Mendoza Berrospe, to find out his whereabouts and to punish the perpetrators of his forced disappearance,” said López Ortega.


For more information and media requests in Geneva, please contact:

Vivian Kwok at [email protected] or
UN Human Rights Office Media Section at [email protected]


The Committee on Enforced Disappearances monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which as of to date, has been ratified by 71 States parties. The Committee is made up of 10 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Article 31 of the Convention allows the Committee to receive and examine complaints by individuals claiming to be victims of a violation of their rights recognised by the Convention by States that have recognized the Committee’s competence under this provision. To date, 30 States have made a declaration under article 31. The Committee’s views and decisions on individual communications are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the Convention.

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