LAWGEF Celebrates Creation of Specialized Unit to Investigate Crimes Against Migrants in Mexico

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LAWGEF celebrates the creation of the Specialized Unit of the Investigation of Crimes against Migrants and Transnational Mechanism (Unidad de Investigación de Delitos para Personas Migrantes y el Mecanismo de Apoyo Exterior Mexicano de Busqueda e Investigación) announced by the Mexican Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuradoría General de la República or PGR) this past Friday, December 18, 2015.

Civil society organizations, migrant shelters, and family members of disappeared migrants from Central America and Mexico have long called for the establishment of such a mechanism due to the lack of progress in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against migrants in transit through Mexico, including extortion, enforced disappearance, homicide, and kidnapping.

Family members of migrants killed in the egregious San Fernando, Tamaulipas and the Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon massacres in 2010 and 2011, for example, have faced obstacles in multiple aspects of the investigations, including the identification of the remains of their loved ones, repatriation of bodies, and in obtaining details about how the migrants were killed and about the role or acquiescence of federal and municipal police in these crimes. Their search to gain answers on the whereabouts of their migrant relatives had involved seeking answers from their own government officials in Central America and traveling to Mexico on numerous occasions only to be forced to document cases of disappeared migrants with their own resources and to continue the search for their relatives on their own.

Housed under the Sub-Prosecutor’s Office for Human Rights within the PGR, this Specialized Unit will now allow the family members of migrants to bring cases of human rights violations to the assigned PGR attaches in the Mexican Embassy of their country of residence, including the United States, demand the search and investigation of the cases and hold the Mexican government accountable for the prosecution of those crimes and corresponding reparations for the violations.

The creation of the Specialized Unit responds to recommendations made to the Mexican government by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and various United Nations representatives, such as the U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. It is an important achievement as it allows migrant family members to report human rights violations against migrants without having to travel to Mexico, recognizing the transnational nature of these crimes and considers coordination with foreign governments, state and municipal level Prosecutor’s Offices in Mexico. The agreement holds the Specialized Unit accountable to producing annual reports with details on the types and numbers of crimes investigated, arrests and sentences made, and reparations provided to migrant family members. It also provides for meetings between the Specialized Unit and groups of migrant family members and civil society organizations on the progress of its work.

“This is a good and long-awaited step towards access to justice for migrants and comes at a crucial moment of increased human rights violations against migrants in transit. LAWGEF urges the Mexican Attorney General’s Office to move forward as swiftly as possible in the implementation of the Specialized Unit and to match this announcement with appropriate resources and staff to begin addressing these cases,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate on Mexico, Migrant Rights, and Border Issues.

For the press release from the Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático del Derecho in Spanish click here.