Mr. Miguel Angel Osorio Chong

Secretary of the Interior

Mexico City - MEXICO

 

Dear Minister Osorio Chong,

I am writing to express Human Rights Watch’s concern regarding the limited progress that Mexico has made in addressing the problem of enforced disappearances and abductions in the country. Even though this human rights crisis began during the previous government, thousands of cases have occurred during the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, and it continues to take a major toll on the lives of many Mexicans today. 

In February 2013, Human Rights Watch published “Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored,” a report documenting nearly 250 “disappearances” that occurred during the administration of President Felipe Calderón. As you may recall, we found compelling evidence of enforced disappearances in 149 of those cases, involving the participation of state agents from all branches of the security forces—including the Army, the Navy, and the federal and local police. We also documented the routine failure of authorities to investigate these disappearances, locate the victims, and prosecute the perpetrators.[1] 

To its credit, the Peña Nieto administration responded to the release of the report by recognizing the seriousness of the problem and launching a series of initiatives aimed at locating people who have gone missing and providing assistance to the victims and their families.

Since then, however, the administration’s efforts have been plagued by inexplicable delays and contradictory public statements, and the measures it has pursued have produced only very limited results.

To better assess the government’s response, Human Rights Watch recently conducted a fact-finding mission to Mexico, meeting with a wide range of senior government officials, as well as with victims’ lawyers, public security experts, civil society leaders, and members of the international community.

We found that—while some officials, particularly in the Attorney General’s Office, are clearly committed to making progress in locating the whereabouts of people who have gone missing and providing assistance to victims—the administration as a whole has failed to ensure that Mexico is fulfilling its obligation under international law to address this human rights crisis.

 

Assessing the Magnitude of the Problem

Following the release of our 2013 report, your office acknowledged the existence of a list, compiled by the previous administration, of over 26,000 people reported disappeared or missing.[2] Given that this list was flawed and incomplete, your office committed itself to examining the cases, removing those that no longer belonged in it, and determining more precisely the scope and nature of the problem of disappearances in Mexico.

But then more than a year passed without any news of progress on the list. And when this prolonged silence was finally broken, it was with a series of contradictory statements by government officials that created more confusion than clarity.

Last May, you said that the number of people missing or disappeared had dropped to 8,000. Then in June, the deputy prosecutor for human rights at the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) stated that the 8,000 number only included people who had gone missing during the Peña Nieto administration. Later that month, you announced in a press conference that the whereabouts of 16,000 people remained unknown in Mexico.[3] Finally on August 21, your office and the PGR announced that the actual number of “people not found” (personas no localizadas) in Mexico was more than 22,000, including people who had gone missing during both the Calderón and Peña Nieto presidencies.[4]

This most recent tally would appear to be the most reliable one to date. Yet it is very difficult to know for sure, based on the information that the administration has made public. For starters, the full list of cases has not been released. Instead, the administration has merely provided an online database that allows people to determine whether specific cases are on the list, but tells them virtually nothing about the cases themselves, beyond the date on which and location where the person went missing, and minimal identifying information such as gender or age.[5]

Crucial questions remain unanswered. For example, the administration reported that the number of people who were still missing from the Calderón years had dropped to 12,000. But how did this figure drop so dramatically? According to the administration, most of the cases removed from the list involved people who had been found alive. Yet it has not made public a list of names of those who had been found alive, nor provided information on these cases that would make it possible to corroborate this claim. 

The database also provides no clue as to how many of the cases of people who remain missing or were found dead involved victims of disappearances (i.e., people who were taken involuntarily). Of particular concern, it provides no way of assessing how many of the cases involve victims of alleged “enforced disappearances” carried out by agents of the state, such as members of the security forces, for which the Mexican state bears direct responsibility. According to government authorities interviewed by Human Rights Watch, only a small minority of the thousands of cases of people “not found” are alleged cases of enforced disappearances.[6] While this may be true, the evidence collected by the National Human Rights Commission and a unit within the PGR that investigates disappearances, in addition to Human Rights Watch’s research, suggests that the number could still be very large.[7]

Finally, the database provides no information regarding the progress of efforts to investigate and prosecute cases in which crimes—including serious human rights abuses—may have been committed, making it difficult to assess to what extent Mexico is fulfilling its obligation under international law to bring perpetrators of abuses to justice.[8]

In short, the information released by the government has raised as many questions as it has answered regarding the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of the government’s response to it. 

 

Finding the Missing

In meetings with Human Rights Watch, representatives from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the PGR stated that the government’s priority, in line with requests they had received from victims and their families, was finding alive people who had gone missing.[9]

Toward that end, the government has pursued several potentially promising initiatives. One is the “Amber Alert” system, established originally by the Calderón administration in May 2012.[10] Under this system, when a child or woman is reported missing, the Special Prosecutor’s Office on Crimes of Violence against Women and Human Trafficking (Fiscalía Especial para los Delitos de Violencia contra las Mujeres y Trata de Personas, FEVIMTRA) analyzes the complaint and may activate the alert by sending information on the missing person to relevant authorities at the state, national, and international level.[11] Through this procedure, FEVIMTRA was able to find 214 children and women who had gone missing since 2011, all but two of them alive.[12] 

The current administration has also been developing an “urgent search” mechanism to look for any person (not just children or women) immediately after a complaint of disappearance is filed. According to government plans, it would be carried out within the first 48 hours by specialized agents based in the country’s state prosecutors’ offices.[13] While the government has created a national network of 160 government officials to implement this mechanism, as of August it had not yet finalized the mechanism’s design.[14]

A more ambitious initiative was the creation, in June 2013, of a special unit of the PGR specifically dedicated to investigating disappearances and searching for the missing (Unidad Especializada de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas).[15] As of mid-August 2014, there were approximately 190 people working at the unit, including 30 prosecutors, who have a workload of around 15 cases each.[16] As of July 9, 2014, the unit had found 86 people (29 who were dead and 57 alive).[17] 

While the creation of this unit is an important step, officials within the unit told us that even though the attorney general had prioritized this area of work, they do not have sufficient resources to handle the unit’s workload.[18] Rather than provide these resources, the administration recently decided to slash the unit’s budget.[19]

Finally, in February 2013, the PGR and Interior Ministry signed an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to elaborate a comprehensive database with standardized information on unidentified remains and on cases of individuals whose whereabouts are unknown.[20] This “Ante-Mortem – Post-Mortem Database” consists of an electronic platform donated by the ICRC, which has the capacity to cross-reference information in it, and determine if any of the unidentified bodies could belong to those individuals reported missing.

This new database could play a fundamental role in determining the fate of many of the disappeared, allowing families to retrieve the remains of lost loved ones, and facilitating criminal investigations that could lead to the prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes.

Yet, as of August 2014, only six jurisdictions had signed a follow-up agreement for the ICRC to donate them the required software, and in none of them is the system operative at the time of writing.[21] Authorities are currently working on finalizing protocols on what information should be collected to fill in the database, training officials, and carrying out a census of cemeteries and clandestine graves in the country.[22] They have also elaborated a diagnosis on the existing infrastructure of local forensic services in all states, and deployed 95 “mobile laboratories” of the PGR all over the country to provide support to local prosecutors.[23]

While PGR authorities hope that the platform with information on some of the states will be up and running by December 2014, there is no fixed date for the entire system to be operative nation-wide.[24]

Support for Victims

In January 2013, the government enacted a Victims Law to provide justice and reparations for victims of crime. The law created an Executive Commission on Attention to Victims (Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, CEAV) with the mandate of providing legal and psychological assistance to victims of crime, establishing a National Registry of Victims, and administering a fund to provide them with adequate reparations.[25]

The CEAV was formally established in January 2014.[26] As of August, it was handling approximately 4,000 cases, out of which 1,712 were cases of disappearances, and it was still working on the National Registry of Victims, which it expected to be ready by mid-2015.[27]

Yet, CEAV members told Human Rights Watch that they are unable to provide reparations to victims because the government has failed to adopt the Victims Law’s implementing regulations, which were due a year ago. Without those regulations, the CEAV is unable to execute a budget of approximately 500 million Mexican pesos (approximately USD 38 million), already approved by the Mexican Congress in the federal budget for this purpose.[28]

In addition to CEAV, in April 2013, the government also created an office within the Interior Ministry, which reports to the Undersecretary of Human Rights, with the specific mandate to provide support to victims of crime.[29] As of August, the office was providing psychological, legal, and social work support to victims of crime, including approximately 700 family members of victims of disappearances.[30]

The Victims Law explicitly provides that the government should ensure that family members of disappearance victims can “exercise in an expedite manner patrimonial and family rights of the missing person to safeguard essential interests of the family.”[31] Yet the legal process by which a missing person is formally declared “absent” and subsequently “presumed dead” is ill-suited to formally recognizing cases of disappearances and responding to the needs of victims’ families.[32] The CEAV, PGR, and the Interior Ministry all recognize the urgent need to modify existing norms, but as of August, none had publicly presented a legislative proposal to do so.[33]

 

Accountability for Abuses

Human Rights Watch’s 2013 report demonstrated that the government had routinely failed to conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into cases of alleged enforced disappearances. According to the National Human Rights Commission, prosecutors regularly fail to carry out basic steps during the investigation to ensure that victims have access to justice.[34]

As of April 2014, no one had been convicted of an enforced disappearance committed after 2006, according to official statistics provided by the government of Mexico to the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances. The government report states that, between 2006 and 2013, authorities initiated 99 criminal investigations (averiguaciones previas) for the alleged crime of enforced disappearance at the federal level, and 192 at the state level.[35] At the federal level, there have been six judicial rulings condemning six individuals for the enforced disappearance of seven victims – but all the disappearances were committed prior to the Calderón administration.[36]

 

Crime Prevention

In August 2014, Roberto Campa Cifrián, Undersecretary for Prevention and Citizen Participation at the Interior Ministry, told Human Rights Watch that the government’s crime prevention strategy aims at “diminishing levels of violence” and having “no disappearances.”[37] Yet the government’s National Program on Social Prevention of Violence and Crime (Programa Nacional para prevención social de la violencia y la delincuencia), published in April 2014 with the purpose of outlining its strategies and goals on crime prevention and citizen security for the following four years, does not even mention the problem of disappearances.[38]

In the meeting with Human Rights Watch, Undersecretary Campa expressed interest in reaching out to civil society organizations working on this issue. On August 26, Human Rights Watch provided him with contacts of leading organizations. At the time of writing, the groups have not yet been contacted by his office to discuss this issue.

 

Recommendations

In conclusion, while the Mexican government has taken some steps in the right direction, much more needs to be done to address this human rights crisis. 

The highest priority should be promoting accountability for enforced disappearances. Specifically, the government should prioritize the criminal investigation of alleged cases of enforced disappearances, by ensuring that the special unit of the PGR and other competent prosecutors have the resources and personnel they need, and that investigators receive full and active cooperation from all federal and state institutions.

Another top priority should be to accelerate the nation-wide implementation of the Ante-Mortem – Post-Mortem database, which, once implemented, could play a pivotal role in providing information necessary for families of the disappeared to find their loved ones, for prosecutors to pursue criminal investigations, and for policy makers and Mexican society to understand the true nature and scope of the human rights crisis that Mexico is facing.

Other crucial steps that the government should take include:

  • Release the names of the 30,000 people who were missing and have been found, as well as the 22,000 who remain missing;   
  • Recognize the jurisdiction of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive complaints of enforced disappearances submitted by individuals and states, and inviting its members to carry out an official visit to Mexico;
  • Ensure that the definition of enforced disappearance in federal and state criminal codes is consistent across jurisdictions and includes all conduct included in the definitions established by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons. This should include, in particular, ensuring that the definition includes disappearances committed by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support (direct or indirect), consent, or acquiescence of state officials;
  • Modify the definition and the process by which a person is formally declared “absent” (declaración de ausencia) in the Federal Civil Code to prevent the loss of basic social services by families of disappeared persons, and pushing for similar reforms at the state level;
  • Adopt implementing regulations of the Victims Law;
  • Adopt a clear crime prevention strategy to curb the existence of disappearances, including a detailed analysis of the modus operandi by security forces in cases of alleged enforced disappearances;
  • Elaborate clear indicators to measure progress in the implementation of the National Human Rights Program’s lines of action related to the problem of disappearances; and
  • Take the leadership to ensure effective collaboration between state and federal authorities, and between different federal authorities with similar mandates.

We sincerely hope that you will take these recommendations into account as you undertake the necessary effort to address this human rights crisis.

 

Respectfully,

José Miguel Vivanco 

 

CC: Jesús Murillo Karam, Attorney General of Mexico

 

[1] Human Rights Watch, Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2013), https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/mexico0213_ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.

[2] The list, inherited from the previous administration, had been compiled by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (PGR) with information provided by the state prosecutors’ offices, and had substantial deficiencies, including inconsistencies and incomplete data.

[3] Alberto Morales and Juan Arvizu, “Destaca Osorio que cifra de desaparecidos se redujo 70%,” El Universal, May 23, 2014, http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/nacion-mexico/2014/destaca-osorio-que-cifr... (accessed August 29, 2014); Jorge Monroy, “Las diferencias entre PGR y Segob,” El Economista, June 1, 2014, http://eleconomista.com.mx/sociedad/2014/06/01/las-diferencias-entre-pgr... (accessed August 29,2014); “La Segob 'corrige' la cifra de ‘personas no localizadas’: son 16,000,” video report, CNN, June 16, 2014, http://mexico.cnn.com/nacional/2014/06/16/la-segob-corrige-la-cifra-de-p... (accessed August 29, 2014).

[4] According to the government, people “not found” were “all individuals whose whereabouts are unknown and this circumstance was reported to authorities through a complaint.” During the administration of Felipe Calderón, 29,707 people were reported missing. As of July 31, 2014, 17,175 people from that list had been found, including 16,274 who were found alive, and 12,532 remain missing. Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012 up until July 31, 2014, 23,234 people were reported as missing before government authorities. Of those, 13,444 were found, including 12,821 who were found alive, and 9,790 remain missing. “Persons not Found: Message to the media by the Undersecretary on Juridical and International Affairs of the PGR, Mariana Benítez Tiburcio,” press release, August 21, 2014.

[5] Visitors to the site can search by the name of the person who has gone missing, a range of dates in which the case was registered, or the file number (folio) of the case in the database. “Consulta de datos de personas desaparecidas,” National Registry with Information on Missing or Disappeared People, http://sirenped.secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/CritMinTPadronPersonaPublicoSFotoCNT?idExtDes=1 (accessed September 15, 2014).

[6] Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights (Subprocuraduría de Derechos Humanos de la PGR), Mexico City, August 14, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Mercedes Peláez, director of the General Directorate of Strategies for the Attention of Human Rights and secretary of the Inter-secretarial Commission to Prevent and Sanction Human Trafficking at the Interior Ministry (Titular de la Dirección General de Estrategias para la Atención de Derechos Humanos y Secretaria Técnica de la Comisión Intersecretarial para Prevenir y Sancionar la Trata de Personas), Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[7] The National Human Rights Commission has received complaints or information on 2,500 cases of “disappearances” that occurred between 2005 and December 2012. The CNDH has issued 12 “recommendations” concluding that in those cases, which involved 30 victims, state agents had participated in the disappearances. In approximately 600 additional cases, the CNDH found circumstantial evidence that there may have been participation of state agents. Human Rights Watch interview with Luis García, primer visitador of the CNDH, Mexico City, August 15, 2014. The Special Unit of the PGR dedicated to investigating disappearances and searching for the missing (Unidad Especializada de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas) handles approximately 370 files, involving more than 400 victims whose whereabouts are unknown. According to the head of the unit, his office focuses primarily on cases in which the perpetrator is allegedly a federal authority, and an “important majority [of those cases] are alleged enforced disappearances.” Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[8] Under international law, an enforced disappearance is a continuous crime: it persists, and continues to inflict suffering on the victim’s family, as long as the fate of the missing person is unknown or concealed. States’ obligation to provide an effective remedy to victims and to conduct prompt and thorough investigations of these crimes becomes especially urgent in these cases. UN General Assembly, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted January 12, 2007, G.A. res. 61/177, UN Doc. A/61/177 (2006), entered into force December 23, 2010, ratified by Mexico March, 18, 2008, arts. 2, 3, 4, 7, and 12; Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, 33 I.L.M. 1429 (1994), entered into force March 28, 1996, ratified by Mexico on February 28, 2002, arts. 2 and 3. See also United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, adopted December 18, 1992, G.A. res. 47/133, 47 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 207, U.N. Doc. A/47/49 (1992), art. 3.

[9] Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Mercedes Peláez, Mexico City, August 14, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto de León Huerta and Sofía Lascurain Sánchez de Tagle, Mexico City, August 15, 2014.

[10] Alerta Amber México (Amber Alter Mexico), “Antecedentes,” June 2014, http://www.alertaamber.gob.mx/antecedentes.html (accessed August 26, 2014).

[11] Alerta Amber México (Amber Alter Mexico), “Preguntas Frecuentes,” June 2014, http://www.alertaamber.gob.mx/preguntas-frecuentes.html (accessed August 26, 2014).

[12] Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[13] Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto de León Huerta and Sofía Lascurain Sánchez de Tagle, Mexico City, August 15, 2014.

[14] The 160 officials in the National Network of Justice Prosecution to Search for Disappeared People (Red Nacional de Procuración de Justicia para la Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas) include 2 ministerial police officers and a prosecutor in each state, totaling 96, and one federal ministerial police officer and one federal prosecutor in each of PGR’s offices in the country, totaling 64. “Steps forward for the creation of the National Plan to Search for Disappeared People” (“Avances para la creación del Plan Nacional para la Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas”), Interior Ministry, PGR, the Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Security and the International Committee of the Red Cross, power point presentation, sent by the PGR to Human Rights Watch via email on August 13, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Mercedes Peláez, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[15] “Acuerdo A/066/13 por el que se crea la Unidad Especializada de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas y se establecen sus facultades” (Agreement A/066/12 creating the Unit Specialized on the Search of Dissapeared People), Official Gazette, June 21, 2013, http://www.dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5303411&fecha=21/06/2013 (accessed August 26, 2014).

[16] They work with 30 support staff (auxiliaries del ministerio público), 40 ministerial police officers, 15 federal police officers, and 38 former members of Províctima, a government office that used to provide support to victims of crime. Províctima was dissolved after the Victims Law was passed in 2013, and its staff was distributed to work in different government offices, including the PGR and the Executive Commission on Attention to Victims (see below). “Decreto por el que se transforma la Procuraduría Social de Atención a las Víctimas de Delitos en la Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas” (Decree that Transforms Províctima into CEAV), Official Gazette, http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5329188&fecha=08/01/2014 (accessed August 26, 2014); Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[19] “Peña wants to “diminish” the unit to search for the disappeared” (Peña busca “empequeñecer” la unidad de búsqueda de desaparecidos), Proceso, September 15, 2014, http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=382176 (accessed September 25, 2014).

[20] PGR, “Sistema de Información Ante Mortem – Post Mortem” (Base de Datos AM PM) (Information System Ante Mortem – Post Mortem (Database AM PM), n.d., provided to Human Rights Watch on August 14, 2014. Copy on file at Human Rights Watch.

[21] The ICRC signed agreements with the PGR and prosecutors’ offices of Mexico City and the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Mexico state, and Tlaxcala. “Persons not Found,” press release, August 21, 2014.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto de León Huerta and Sofía Lascurain Sánchez de Tagle, Mexico City, August 15, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Mercedes Peláez, Mexico City, August 14, 2014; “Steps forward for the creation of the National Plan to Search for Disappeared People,” sent by the PGR to Human Rights Watch via email on August 13, 2014.

[23] “Steps forward for the creation of the National Plan to Search for Disappeared People,” sent by the PGR to Human Rights Watch via email on August 13, 2014; National Human Rights Program 2014-2018, April 30, 2014, http://www.dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5343071&fecha=30/04/2014 (accessed August 26, 2014). See also, “Persons not Found,” press release, August 21, 2014.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with staff from the office of the Deputy Prosecutor for Human Rights at the PGR, Mexico City, August 14, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto de León Huerta and Sofía Lascurain Sánchez de Tagle, Mexico City, August 15, 2014.

[25] Ley General de Víctimas (Victims Law), Official Gazette, signed into law January 9, 2013, http://www.diputados.gob.mx/LeyesBiblio/pdf/LGV.pdf (accessed August 27, 2014), arts. 32, 44, 67 and 88(XXI).

[26] “Decreto por el que se transforma la Procuraduría Social de Atención a las Víctimas de Delitos en la Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas” (Decree that Transforms Províctima into CEAV), Official Gazette, http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5329188&fecha=08/01/2014 (accessed August 26, 2014).

[27] The registry will include information already in hands of state and federal authorities, as well as new cases that are being compiled using a standardized form that was created by the commission. Human Rights Watch interview with Jaime Rochin, Carlos Ríos, and Julio Hernández, members of the CEAV, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[28] Ibid. Ley General de Víctimas, art. 143.

[29] “Reglamento Interior de la Secretaría de Gobernación” (Interior Ministry’s Internal Rules of Procedure), Official Gazette, April 2, 2013, http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5294185&fecha=02/04/2013 (accessed August 28, 2014).

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with Mercedes Peláez, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[31] Ley General de Víctimas, art. 88.

[32] From the time a person disappears, according to the steps laid out in the law, obtaining a “declaration of absence” (declaración de ausencia) takes a minimum of two years and ten months. Moreover, the “presumption of death of the absent person” (presunción de muerte del ausente) may only be solicited six years after a declaration of absence has been granted. Both steps require a legal representative to submit an application, and a judge to approve it. Therefore, under normal circumstances, the process of obtaining a certificate of the presumption of death—which many government institutions request of families in order to continue to provide access to key social services tied to the victim’s employment—takes a minimum of eight years and ten months after a person’s disappearance, according to the law. The cost of the lengthy process, which requires families to hire a lawyer, is considerable, especially for poor families.

[33] The CEAV is working on two proposals. The first one would create a “provisional declaration of disappearance with presumption of life” to be granted by an administrative body, which would allow family members immediate representation of the victim in certain legal acts. The other is a similar declaration but to be granted by the courts, which would allow family members greater powers to represent the victim in the administration of his or her property. Human Rights Watch interview with Jaime Rochin, Carlos Ríos, and Julio Hernández, members of the CEAV, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.
The National Plan to Search for Disappeared People includes a line of action to modify norms on the processes to obtain a “declaration of absence.” “Steps forward for the creation of the National Plan to Search for Disappeared People,” sent by the PGR to Human Rights Watch via email on August 13, 2014. The Interior Ministry has conducted a comprehensive review on local laws regulating the “declaration of absence” and they are working on a draft bill to modify the civil code, which as of August 2014 was not public. Human Rights Watch interview with Mercedes Peláez, Mexico City, August 14, 2014.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with Luis García, primer visitador, Mexico City, August 15, 2014.

[35] UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 29, paragraph 1, of the Convention Reports of States parties due in 2012. Mexico,” CED /C/MEX/1, April 17, 2014, paras. 73 and 74.

[36] One case is from 1977, one from 2002, one from 2003, and three from 2005. In one of the cases, the government did not provide names of the victim or the perpetrator but the wording in Spanish suggests the case involves one victim and one perpetrator. Ibid., para. 164.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto Campa Cifrián, Undersecretary for Prevention and Citizen Participation at the Interior Ministry, Mexico City, August 15, 2014.

[38] The only mention of the word “disappearances” is in a footnote that cites Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report “Neither Rights nor Security: Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico’s ‘War on Drugs’” to argue that crimes have become more violent in Mexico. Programa nacional para la prevención social de la violencia y la delincuencia: 2014-2018 (National Program on Social Prevention of Violence and Crime: 2014-2018), Official Gazette, DOF: 30/04/2014, http://www.dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5343087&fecha=30/04/2014 (accessed August 26, 2014).