Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mexico's Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored

According to Mexico's government, from 2006-2012, 26,121 people disappeared in Mexico, with the missing including police officers, bricklayers, housewives, lawyers, students, businessmen and more than 1,200 children under age 11. Not only are authorities failing to investigate the missing, they are often directly involved in the disappearances, so families continue to suffer the anguish of not knowing what happened to a loved one.

Human Rights Watch has documented nearly 250 such “disappearances” that have occurred since 2007. In more than 140 of these cases, evidence suggests that these were enforced disappearances—meaning that state agents participated directly in the crime, or indirectly through support or acquiescence. These crimes were committed by members of every security force involved in public security operations, sometimes acting in conjunction with organized crime. In the remaining cases, we were not able to determine based on available evidence whether state actors participated in the crime, though they may have.

In nearly all of these cases, authorities failed to promptly and thoroughly search for the victims or investigate the cases. Prosecutors rarely carried out basic investigative steps crucial to finding missing persons, too often opting instead to blame the victims and, reflecting the low priority they place on solving such crimes, telling families to conduct the searches on their own. When prosecutors did investigate, their efforts were undermined by
delays, errors, and omissions. Searches and investigations were further hindered by structural problems such as overly narrow laws and the lack of critical tools like a national database of the disappeared.

The inept or altogether absent efforts of authorities to find people who are taken add to the suffering of victims’ families, for whom not knowing what happened to their loved ones is a source of perpetual anguish. Many relatives put aside everything else in their lives to search for the missing, a quest they feel they cannot abandon until they learn the truth. Making matters worse, victims’ families may lose access to basic social services and
benefits—such as healthcare and childcare—tied to the victim’s employment, forcing them to fight costly and emotionally-draining battles to restore the benefits.
The Mexican people are truly at the mercy of these cartels and their government.

Searching for Mexico's Disappeared:
COAHUILA STATE, Mexico — The federal government says 26,000 people have been reported missing across Mexico since 2006, and yet just two states have a local prosecutor's office dedicated to the investigation of such cases.

Even there, those who have disappeared are rarely found. Some have been caught up in the drug trade; others forcibly recruited to work for the gangs. Cases of mistaken identity are also common, and some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Across the country, very few cases are properly investigated, and reports of the involvement of authorities are frequent.

Mexico's Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored.


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