Mexican security forces have committed widespread rights abuses [press release], such as torture and forced disappearances, in combating organized crime, according to a report [text, PDF] released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The report, "Neither Rights Nor Security," details HRW's investigation into the actions of the Mexican military and police forces in confronting drug cartels and the escalation in violence that has occurred since President Felipe Calderon declared war on organized crime [AP report] in 2006. The investigation began two years ago with HRW sending investigators to five of Mexico's most violent states. In the course of their investigation, HRW found evidence of security forces committing "170 cases of torture, 39 'disappearances,' and 24 extrajudicial killings." HRW summarized its findings:
What we have found is a public security policy that is badly failing on two fronts. It has not succeeded in reducing violence. Instead, it has resulted in a dramatic increase in grave human rights violations, virtually none of which appear to be adequately investigated. In sum, rather than strengthening public security in Mexico, Calderon "war" has exacerbated a climate of violence, lawlessness, and fear in many parts of the country.HRW claims that not only have the security forces been committing these rights abuses, but that the government has failed to adequately investigate claims of abuse. In addition, the report notes that these rights abuses not only undermine the rule of law, but can also be counterproductive to the operation by causing an escalation of violence and a loss of legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
The HRW report comes in response to widespread violence in Mexico in the fight against drug cartels. This is not the first time the security forces have been accused of committing rights abuses. In August, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission [official website, in Spanish] issued a report [text, PDF, in Spanish] contending that military and law enforcement officials routinely conducted illegal searches [JURIST report]. Mexico has struggled to combat the drug cartels' influence on the government and the country as a whole. There have been more than 27,000 drug-related deaths [STRATFOR report] since 2006. In 2008, a former Assistant Attorney General was arrested for receiving bribes and Mexico's prosecutor's office admitted that it had been infiltrated [JURIST reports] by the drug cartels.