Commissioners: Felipe González, Rodrigo Escobar Gil, Rosa María Ortíz
Petitioners: Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), Comité de Familiares Migrantes Fallecidos y Desaparecidos – El Salvador (COFAMIDE), Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos de El Progreso, Honduras (COFAMIPRO), Casa del Migrante de Saltillo (Frontera con Justicia A.C., Humanidad Sin Fronteras A.C.), Voces Mesoamericanas Acción con Pueblos Migrantes (VM), Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho (Fundación para la Justicia).
State: State of Mexico
Topic: Thematic hearing on missing migrants and the identification of human remains in Mexico.
In 2010, Mexican authorities found seventy-two bodies laying in a mass grave in San Fernando de Tamaulipas, Mexico. More graves appeared in 2011, totaling 600 sets of human remains across four states in Mexico. The bodies belonged to migrants from Central and South America on their way to the Unites States of America.
On March 23, 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a thematic hearing on missing migrants and unidentified remains in Mexico. Petitioners Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF) indicated that, in the last six years, 47,000 migrants have died in Mexico, and 8,800 of them have not been identified. Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos de El Progreso, Honduras (COFAMIPRO) told the stories of the families of missing migrants and their struggle to find them. They related how in some instances, Mexican authorities wrongly identified remains, did not allow relatives to see the remains, and sent bags of sand and non-human remains to the families instead of the bodies of their missing relatives. They further alleged that Mexican authorities were intentionally discarding the bodies of missing migrants. Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho listed the main problems they perceive with the identification of remains. These problems include a lack of homogeneous criteria to store, catalogue and share forensic information; absence of clear data on the number missing migrants; unwillingness of the authorities to investigate cases regarding the marginalized and the poor; and lack of coordination with other States in the region.
Based on the right to access to justice and truth, Petitioners made four requests to the Mexican State and IACHR. First, they requested that the Mexican State immediately form an independent committee of international forensic experts, with the participation of civil society representatives, which would lead efforts to identify remains. Second, Petitioners requested that the State preserve remains recovered between 2010 and 2011 until they are identified. Third, they requested that Mexico establish a national mechanism to facilitate the exchange of information on unidentified remains that later should be incorporated into a similar regional mechanism. Fourth, they requested that the IACHR and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights join the effort to establish and maintain the database and the forensic committee.
The representatives for the Mexican State included Max Diener Sala, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Human Rights at Mexico’s Interior Ministry; Ambassador Joel Hernández García, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the Organization of American States; Ambassador Alejandro Negrin Muñoz, Foreign Ministry’s Director General of Human Rights and Democracy; and officials from other Mexican Ministries. Undersecretary Diener Sala recognized that this is an important and complex situation, and declared that the State is open and committed to finding a solution. To address the issue, the Mexican Government approved the Ley del Registro Nacional de Personas Extraviadas o Desaparecidas, which creates a national database that allows the coordination of federal and state authorities dealing with missing persons. As to the allegations of improper conduct by government officials, Undersecretary Diener Sala stated that the Mexican Government does not tolerate such acts, and will prosecute what he called “traitors to the system.” In addition, a forensic expert, Isabel Pérez Torres, detailed the process and techniques used in Mexican Government forensic laboratories to identify human remains.
Commissioner Felipe González, who is also the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, asked if Mexico would consider establishing a committee like the one petitioners request, pointing out that similar committees have been established between other States, with support of the OAS. Commissioner Rosa María Ortíz joined Commissioner González’s question adding that it will be beneficial to Mexico to collaborate with other States and organizations that have experience dealing with forced disappearances and identification of remains.
In response to the commissioners’ question, representatives from the Mexican State agreed that the State would consider the proposal to create an independent committee, but that they could not make a decision at this time, since it was a complex proposition. Undersecretary Diener Sala added that any effort moving forward, including any committee, must be based on the current efforts from the Mexican Government in creating a national database.
Petitioners thanked the Mexican State for their expressed commitment to addressing the issue and their disposition to consider their petition. COFAMIPRO also wished to stress that theirs was a “search for life, but they have to go through the sad process of identifying remains for clues in their search.”