Jun 8, 2016

'Crimes against humanity' are committed in Mexico, new report contends

Police vehicle in Juarez, Mexico, with patrol number 666.
Digie Zone file photo.
Mexico's crimes against humanity

Analysis & editorial

By Diana Washington Valdez
The Digie Zone/June 8, 2016

El PASO, TEXAS - A resounding and devastating report by the Open Society Foundations alleges that thousands of unpunished murders and unsolved disappearances in Mexico represent crimes against humanity.

According to the just-released report, “Undeniable Atrocities, Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico,” certain crimes committed by drug cartels and government officials are “atrocities” as defined by the United Nations.

“The United Nations defines the term (atrocity crimes) as encompassing the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.” [3]

Researchers who worked on the sweeping and devastating report said they focused on the period Dec. 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2015, although they provided a historical view of high-profile crimes over the decades and the Mexican government’s response to them.

The report also addresses the burning issue of why impunity persists in Mexico, whether it involves atrocities committed by suspected government actors or by drug cartels.

A lack of political will through the years, regardless of which political party recent presidents belonged to, appears to account for the phenomenon of unpunished crime and the persistence of systematic violence, the report suggests.

“The report provides the first systematic analysis of the barriers to criminal accountability for atrocity crimes at the federal level,” the report states.

According to the report, which underwent a “thorough vetting process,” the Zetas drug cartel and Mexican soldiers and other security forces engaged in the kind of systematic violence that included atrocities; forced disappearance, torture and murder.

The crimes highlighted in the report include the notorious femicides that began in Juarez, Mexico, and which also represent a form of systematic violence against a segment of the population, the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa (an emblematic case), allegations of torture, rape and murder involving soldiers, and the genocide-like violence stemming from the reputed ‘war’ against the drug cartels, clandestine and government ‘mass graves,’ and murders of human rights activists, among others.

Responding to the report, Mexican officials issued a multi-agency statement denying the allegations that federal security forces committed "crimes against humanity," and stated they are working hard to strengthen the nation's capacity to defeat organized crime and to prevent and punish human rights violations. Government officials said that most of the violent crime referred to in the Open Society Foundations report is carried out by organized criminals.

The report

[Based on the intensity and patterns of violence committed since December 2006, there is compelling evidence that the murders, enforced disappearances, and torture committed by both federal government actors and members of the Zetas cartel constitute crimes against humanity. This analysis finds that the situation in Mexico meets the legal definition of crimes against humanity as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (to which Mexico has been party since January 2006), as well as the jurisprudence of the ICC and other international tribunals.]


In the 2006, “The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women,” which deals with the femicides of Juarez, Mexico, and the parallel drug-related violence that operates in that city, I argued that without meaningful international intervention the femicides would worsen and spread to other parts of Mexico. This happened. I also suggested that drug lords could be tried for crimes against humanity; after all, they engage in intentional systematic violence as part of their cost of doing business. Their crimes are of a magnitude that should command international action.

Government officials that wink at the crimes of drug-trafficker or enter into financial arrangements that protect the cartels, become indirectly responsible for the ensuing violence that feeds on terror in innumerable communities. Instead, we are seeing companies and celebrities cash in on telenovelas, songs and movies that glorify and “normalize” the lifestyles of crime and corruption.

U.S. political and community leaders have exhibited a criminal silence in the face of what Mexican citizens must endure each day that impunity wins. This is in part so as not to disturb the U.S. business interests in that country, and they are vast, including the hundreds of U.S.-owned assembly plants known as maquiladoras, and the recent large-scale investments in security technology and energy resources there.

About the report

[The Open Society Justice Initiative and five independent Mexican human rights organizations have spent four years examining the extent and nature of this crisis. We have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both state and non-state actors have committed crimes against humanity in Mexico…. Seeking accountability before the ICC is an option if Mexico persistently fails to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes.] 

[According to one source, there are reasons to believe that there were 4,306 femicides in Mexico between 2006 and 2012. (168) And the National Network of Human Rights Defenders in Mexico (Red Nacional de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos en México, RNDDHM), identified 615 attacks on women human rights defenders between from the beginning of 2012 through 2014, including 36 killings.(169)]

Report's recommendations

[To demonstrate political will and inspire genuine hope for an end to Mexico’s ongoing crisis of atrocity and impunity, bold steps are needed. Central to these must be the creation of an internationalized investigative body, based inside Mexico, which is empowered to independently investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes as well as cases of grand corruption.30]

For the future

The next U.S. president to be elected in November 2016 ought to be one that is willing to help Mexico’s citizens take back their country. This ought to be a top foreign policy priority. In Mexico, the Mexican people deserve leaders that are willing to risk everything to see this accomplished.

Diana Washington Valdez
Diana Washington Valdez is a Latina digital publisher and author based in El Paso, Texas.

Links to the report in English and Spanish

En Espanol

(The Open Society Foundationsis an international grant-making network founded by George Soros that supports civil society groups around the world to advance justice, education, public health and independent media.)