- James Cavallaro
- Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño
- Paulo Vannuchi
- Enrique Gil Botero
- Elizabeth Abi-Mershed (Secretary of the Commission)
- Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México (REDIM)
Petitioners, at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on April 7, 2016, presented the issue of child disappearances in Mexico. On September 26, 2015, forty-three students were abducted from outside a school in Iguala, Mexico. The perpetrators are said to have connections with organized crime in Mexico. In October, protesters filled the streets of Iguala to bring awareness to the growing number of disappeared children. Parents are looking for the bodies of their children to give them a proper burial without hope of finding them alive. Since 2006, when the Mexican government declared war on the drug cartels, there have been tens of thousands of cases of disappeared persons. Forty percent of those are young people between fifteen and twenty-nine.
Petitioners began their presentation with a video showing four separate testimonials about children who left the house and never returned. In many of these cases, the suspected kidnappers were in custody but could not be prosecuted for lack of evidence and the children were never found. In the video, the families testified that the Rio de Remedios, a river in south central Mexico, was being used as a tomb for the bodies of women and children. Petitioners also showed that disappearances disproportionately affect the poor. Although there are many laws and mechanisms in place to combat forced disappearances, the government does not implement them. REDIM argued that government corruption plays a key role in perpetuating the problem though ineffective investigations and lax implementation of the laws.
During a visit to Mexico in October of 2015, the Commission learned that between 2007 and 2015, there were reports of 6,000 missing children and adolescents. This constitutes more than one fifth of all reported missing people in Mexico. Petitioners claim that children – who make up thirty percent of Mexico’s population – have a right to security and that the State has an obligation to protect them. They called on the State to improve the system of reporting missing children missing, searching for the children with more immediacy, and prosecuting suspects.
In response, the State acknowledged the complicated nature of this issue and the painful effect it has on parents and families. It also stated that they are attempting to follow the IACHR’s IACHR’s recommendations from last year. In order to help protect children, the State said that the cultural paradigm that threatens the safety of children must change. In a country with a history of inequality, it claimed that there are now over 3,000 public welfare institutions. Additionally, there are now multiple commissions, such as the Commission for Recommendations for Human Rights of Children, to help create new programs. The State also mentioned that the problem of child disappearances is not unique to Mexico, but occurs around the world.
The State went on to recognize that many child disappearances were closely linked to problems of organized crime. To combat this multi-faceted problem, the State agreed to guarantee certain rights, to collaborate with other organizations, and to participate in the cases of missing children. The State said it can make immediate improvements to the AMBER alert system; the registration system of missing people, which has not yet been implemented countrywide; and special protection programs for children.
Commissioners expressed concern about the effectiveness and efficiency of the mechanisms in place to prevent disappearances of children. Commissioners requested clearer communication from the State. They said children are too important for the State not to take preventative action. They asserted that all State institutions need to be integrated for a holistic view of the problem. The best way to solve this problem, according to Commissioner Botero, is to combine legislation with actual action.
Article 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights states, “Every minor child has the right to the measures of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his family, society, and the state.” Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) also emphasizes the need to protect of children due to their status as minors. It holds state parties responsible for implementing measures to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children in any form. Mexico, which has ratified both the American Convention and the UNCRC, recognized its obligation to abide by international law, and implement its own domestic laws, to protect the growing number of at-risk children from forced disappearance.