Amnesty International Urges Mexico to Investigate Disappearances of Men Seized by Navy

Press Release
June 17, 2011

Amnesty International Urges Mexico to Investigate Disappearances of Men Seized by Navy

Contact:  Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, wgozan@aiusa.org.

(London) -- Mexican civilian authorities must urgently investigate the disappearance of a man detained by members of the Mexican Navy in the state of Tamaulipas last week, Amnesty International said today.

Navy authorities have denied involvement in the June 5 detention of José Fortino Mártinez, but eyewitnesses present during the navy operation said they followed official vehicles carrying Martinez to the gates of a nearby military base.  

“The official denial of involvement in the detention of José Fortino Mártinez is not credible in the face of compelling evidence,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.   
 
At least three other men -- Jose Cruz Dias Jaramillo, Joel Diaz Espinoza and Martin Rico Garcia -- are also missing, apparently after being detained by naval officers in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, between June 2 and 5.  “These men are at huge risk of torture, ill-treatment and even death. The more time goes by, the greater the danger is,” said Zuñiga.  

Amnesty International has called on the civilian Federal Attorney General’s Office and the National Human Rights Commission to conduct immediate, impartial and effective investigations to locate the missing men.  "These investigations must include direct access to all Navy installations and personnel involved and prevent more abuse from taking place,” said Zuñiga.

Relatives of the missing men have filed complaints with federal authorities but all have denied involvement and enquires have produced no results.  When relatives protested outside the town hall on the night of José Fortino Mártinez’s detention, members of the Mexican Navy reportedly threatened them with detention if they continued.

The increasing role of the Mexican Navy in policing operations carried out by the Armed Forces in different regions of the country against criminal gangs is leading to more human rights violations, but the military justice system that investigates such abuses is not impartial, independent or transparent, preventing victims and relatives from obtaining truth or justice.

“Amnesty International is fully aware of the increase in indiscriminate violence resulting from organized crime, which has affected large sections of the population not involved in criminal activity, but enforced disappearances violate the rule of law and can amount to crimes against humanity,” said Zuñiga.   

Mexico is a state party to the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, which provides that "persons alleged to be responsible for the acts constituting the offence of forced disappearance of persons may be tried only in the competent jurisdictions of ordinary law in each state, to the exclusion of all other special jurisdictions, particularly military jurisdictions."    

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.
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