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UN Watchdog: Disappearances in Mexico Thrive in Climate of Impunity

FILE - Forensic technicians excavate a field on a plot of land referred to as a cartel "extermination site" where burned human remains are buried, on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Feb. 8, 2022.

A U.N. watchdog committee is calling for an end to what it says is a climate of almost absolute impunity in Mexico, which is behind the country’s epidemic of enforced disappearances. The U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances has published the results of a fact-finding mission to Mexico late last year.

During the committee’s visit to Mexico last November, 112 newly disappeared victims were added to the more than 95,000 people officially registered as missing.

The U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances holds public officials and organized crime responsible for the soaring numbers of disappearances in Mexico. That is based on evidence gathered by the committee during its 11-day visit from hundreds of officials, victims, and civil society organizations across the country.

Committee Secretary Albane Prophette-Pallasco says males between the ages of 15 and 40 are the main victims. But she says there has been a notable increase in disappearances of boys and girls from age 12, as well as of adolescents and women – some for purposes of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Prophette-Pallasco also noted with concern the disappearances of human rights activists and journalists.

“The committee is concerned about the situation of human rights defenders, some of whom have been disappeared because of the participation in searches and fighting against disappearances," she said. "It is also concerned at the disappearances of more than 30 journalists between 2003 and 2021, none of them has been located.”

The report notes an average of 8,000 new cases of enforced disappearances in Mexico have occurred in each of the past five years. During the visit, Prophette-Pallasco says the committee heard allegations of disappearances that have happened in prisons and migration centers.

She says the delegation also received allegations that migrants were being illegally detained and held for ransom, sometimes with the support of public servants.

“Impunity in Mexico is a structural feature that favors the reproduction and cover-up of enforced disappearances and creates threats and anxiety to the victims…The Committee called for immediate actions to end absolute impunity and a national policy to prevent this human tragedy,” said Prophette-Pallasco.

In response to the report, Mexico’s Interior Ministry issued a statement expressing its appreciation of the work of the U.N. committee. It added that it was committed to implementing the committee’s recommendations in good faith.

Mexico has four months in which to submit its observations to the committee.