(Washington, D.C.) — Concrete measures are needed to back up a new law aimed at guaranteeing the rights of victims of crime and human rights abuses in the ongoing violence resulting from the struggle against organized crime in Mexico, Amnesty International said.
Mexico's new President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the General Victims' Law (Ley General de Víctimas) into effect on Wednesday.
Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed and thousands have disappeared in the violence by organized crime and as a result of security force operations. The victims and their relatives have frequently been ignored and are routinely denied access to justice.
The efforts of Mexican NGOs – including victims of the violence themselves – have been crucial to the measure's passage, and they are hopeful it will ensure victims are treated with respect, crimes are investigated and compensation is paid to help stop similar abuses from being repeated in the future.
"This law came about as a result of sustained pressure from civil society, and is an important advance for the victims of human rights violations and crime in Mexico," said Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser to Amnesty International. "The decision by the new president to remove the veto on the bill applied by former President Calderón is a positive sign that this government will begin to take seriously the rights of the victims of the violence."
"But for it to make a real difference," Zúñiga continued. "The Mexican authorities at all levels must ensure the law is complied with effectively. When abuses happen, victims and their family members have a right to know the truth, for a full and effective investigation to take place, receive protection and support and have access to reparations – we’ll be keeping pressure on the authorities to ensure this happens."
The new law puts in place a number of judicial, administrative, social and economic measures to safeguard the human rights of victims of crime and human rights violations, but it is now up to the new administration and legislators to ensure sufficient resources and implementing legislation to make the safeguards effective.
Drug cartels and other organized crime groups are responsible for the majority of the violence, but security and police forces are frequently implicated in collusion with these groups. Human rights violations by security forces in policing operations were routine under Calderón’s administration – including enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detentions. The failure to investigate most crimes and human rights violations created a culture of impunity and lack of access to justice for victims.
Last October, Amnesty International released a report documenting a torture epidemic in the country.
When Peña Nieto took office in December 2012, Amnesty International called on him to break with this legacy of human rights abuse and implement concrete measures to combat impunity, including those covered in the General Victims' Law.
"Passing laws alone is not sufficient to safeguard the human rights of victims," said Zúñiga. "President Peña Nieto now needs to commit to following up this new law by ensuring that the Mexican authorities put in place – as soon as possible – effective measures to help victims of crime and human rights violations and to ensure that the same abuses are not repeated in the future."
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, truth and dignity are denied.