Amnesty International Urges President of Mexico to Immediately Investigate Navy 'Disappearances'

Press Release
June 29, 2011

Amnesty International Urges President of Mexico to Immediately Investigate Navy 'Disappearances'

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

(London) -- Mexico's President Felipe Calderón must immediately launch an independent civilian investigation into the whereabouts of least six people who were detained by the Mexican navy in early June, Amnesty International said today.

In a public letter to the President, Amnesty International's Secretary General, Salil Shetty, pointed to witness testimony and photographs of the suspected enforced disappearance of at least six men between June 1st and 5th in Nuevo Laredo, along the U.S. border in Tamaulipas state.

"Nearly four weeks have passed and we still know nothing of the whereabouts of these men or why the navy detained them," said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.
"As the commander in chief of Mexico's armed forces, the chain of command stops with President Felipe Calderón. He ordered the armed forces in to tackle organized crime and is ultimately responsible for any human rights abuses committed.  He must urgently ensure the whereabouts of the men is established and that Mexico's civilian justice system holds to account those responsible for their enforced disappearance."

The disappeared include José Fortino Martínez, José Cruz Díaz Caramillo, Joel Díaz Espinoza, Martín Rico García, Diego Omar Guillen Martínez and Usiel Gómez Rivera. In four of the cases, uniformed navy personnel took the men from their homes in official vehicles. In one instance, family members followed the military convoy to the gates of a nearby military base.

Family members of the detained men said officials interrogated them about possession of drugs and arms, but did not provide an arrest warrant or a reason for their relatives' detention.  A local human rights NGO in Nuevo Laredo received reports of eight other enforced disappearances this month, but family members were too scared to file formal complaints.  

Naval authorities continue to deny involvement in the disappearances.

Despite complaints filed with local and national authorities, the fate and whereabouts of the detained men are still unknown. According to family members, an investigation launched by the Federal Attorney General's Office has made little progress.

Mexico has joined several international treaties to end enforced disappearance, a serious violation of the rule of law that can amount to a crime against humanity.

"Mexico is faced with a complex security situation, but that never justifies government authorities committing or ignoring serious human rights violations," said Zuñiga. "President Calderón must send a strong, clear message that enforced disappearances and other human rights violations by Mexico's armed forces will not be tolerated."

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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