Human Rights Abuses in Mexico's "War on Drugs"

On November 9, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report describing the rise in human rights abuses in Mexico since President Calderon launched the war on drugs and organized crime five years ago. This new report, called Neither Rights Nor Security Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico's "War on Drugs", follows the surge in violence in five states resulting from the actions of both drug cartels and government actors. HRW reveals that the government's public security policy has led to an increase in human rights violations, rather than accomplishing its intended goal of restoring and guarding public safety.

Based on credible evidence, the authors have identified 170 cases of torture, 39 "disappearances" and 24 extrajudicial killings. Many of these human rights abuses involved security forces and often included attempts to cover up these events rather than launching proper investigations. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch identified an increased scale of human rights abuses. For example, 4,803 complaints of abuses by soldiers against civilians have been filed with the Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission between 2007 and 2010 (up from 691 complaints between 2003 and 2006). Decrying the impunity of these abuses, Human Rights Watch investigates the failure of the government, security forces, prosecutors and medical advisers to challenge these actions. While this report does not ignore the violence stemming from the drug cartel's activities, it strives to show how those who claim to protect Mexican citizens have failed to enforce standards of due process or to investigate many of the abuses perpetrated against their constituents. The report also addresses the failure of Mexico's Human Rights Institutions to effectively help those who have been detained or killed or to support their families and friends, ignoring the suffering and serious consequences of trauma in this population. Additionally, HRW critiques the societal discourse that frames abuses like torture and disappearances as targeting only those who were mixed up in organized crime, when that is not always the case. A shift in this discourse and the efforts to help the families of victims is needed for adequate pressure to be put on government and military forces to stop the abuses.

Click on this link for the press release:

If you would like to view the full report, you can download it here: