[JURIST] Mexican security forces have enforced or participated in widespread “disappearances” [press release] in which individuals are taken against their will, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported Wednesday. The rights group has documented at least 250 “disappearances” [report, PDF] since 2007. In most of these cases, security forces failed to search for the victim or investigate, and perpetrators have not been prosecuted. HRW predicts that many more individuals disappeared during the administration of former president Felipe Calderon [BBC profile]. José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW, urged the current administration to take action:
President Peña Nieto has inherited one of worst crises of disappearances in the history of Latin America. While his administration has announced some important measures to assist victims, it has yet to take the steps necessary to ensure that those responsible for these horrific crimes are brought to justice.
HRW recommends, among other measures, that the federal government investigate and prosecute members of the Army, Navy and Federal Police alleged to have participated in the forced disappearances. HRW also urged the government to establish databases of disappeared individuals and unidentified remains found in mass graves in order to identify missing individuals.
This is not the first time the security forces have been accused of committing rights abuses, most of which have been committed in response to the crackdown on illegal drugs. The Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego (TBI) [official website] in July reported that that Mexican military forces have been committing human rights violations with impunity [JURIST report]. HRW reported in November 2011 that Mexican security forces had committed widespread rights abuses [JURIST report], such as torture and forced disappearances, in combating organized crime. In August 2011, 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.