WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
12 Sep 2017 | Press Release

Mexico’s Failure to Improve Human Rights Record Means U.S. Should Withhold Conditioned Military Aid

Washington, DC—By September 30, the U.S. Department of State needs to report to Congress on whether Mexico has sufficiently improved its human rights record in four key areas to warrant the release of select conditioned funds for the Mexican military. According to a new memo by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and five other leading U.S., Mexican, and international human rights groups, the United States should not release this portion of aid to Mexico, given the country’s lack of progress in meeting the human rights requirements included in the assistance package.

“The Mexican government has once again demonstrated a lack of political will to prioritize the human rights of its citizens by failing to investigate and punish the crimes and abuses they suffer at the hands of Mexican security forces,” said Maureen Meyer, WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights. “Given the widespread lack of accountability for human rights violations in Mexico and the government’s failure to address abuses such as torture and forced disappearances, the State Department should not certify that progress is being made in the country. Unconditionally supporting Mexico’s security forces while human rights violations remain unchecked will only worsen the country’s security situation, not strengthen it.”

For instance, a judge recently determined that the federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) failed to do due diligence in the investigation into the soldiers responsible for the killing of 22 civilians in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico in June 2014 and that it had not investigated the chain of command and the military order to “take out criminals in the darkness.” This ruling adds further evidence of the Mexican government’s failure to meet the first requirement in U.S. assistance.


Based on the content of the memo, WOLA outlines below the human rights requirements that Mexico must meet to receive the conditioned funds, and the reasons why they have not been met.

REQUIREMENT 1) The Government of Mexico is: thoroughly and credibly investigating and prosecuting violations of human rights in civilian courts, including the killings at Tlatlaya in June 2014, in accordance with Mexican law.

  • There has been no progress in the criminal investigation into the killings of 22 civilians by Mexican soldiers in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico in 2014. Mexican officials have failed to obtain arrest warrants against the soldiers involved in the killings and to properly investigate the military order to “take out criminals”.
  • There have been no convictions in a number of emblematic cases of rape and sexual abuse, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings involving Mexican soldiers and the Federal Police, including in two cases currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
  • Despite 2014 reforms granting the PGR jurisdiction to investigate crimes and human rights violations committed by soldiers against civilians, military investigations continue to obstruct civilian investigations, and the PGR investigations are slow, bureaucratic, and not transparent.
  • The PGR consistently fails to investigate the chain of command, which fails to take into account that crimes committed by soldiers often occur in a context of soldiers operating under a standing military order.  
  • Mexico’s Congress is debating a Law on Internal Security that would normalize the role of the military in Mexico’s public security operations. These discussions have not sufficiently addressed the implications this would have on human rights in the country.

REQUIREMENT 2) Vigorously enforcing prohibitions against torture and the use of testimony obtained through torture.

  • Although Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) and the PGR have received tens of thousands of complaints of torture, prosecutors have presented charges in only 22 cases between 2012 and 2016. There is only evidence of 15 convictions for torture in Mexico since 1999.
  • Mexico’s General Law against Torture that came into effect in June 2017 corrects some flaws in previous torture legislation. The full and correct application of this law will be crucial if Mexico is to end the generalized practice of torture in the country.

REQUIREMENT 3) Searching for the victims of forced disappearances and credibly investigating and prosecuting those responsible for such crimes.

  • According to official numbers, there are more than 32,000 disappeared persons in Mexico, and the recent discoveries of several mass graves by a collective of family members of the disappeared highlight the government’s inability or unwillingness to search for and exhume bodies, identify them, and return them to their family members.
  • Discussions about the General Law against Disappearances have been long and complicated, with members of civil society and families of the disappeared struggling to ensure that their input is considered and incorporated into the final version of the law.

REQUIREMENT 4) The Committee expects the Government of Mexico to cooperate fully with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Interdisciplinary Group of Experts’ (GIEI) investigation of the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero in September 2014.

  • The GIEI has scientifically disproven the federal government’s theory about what happened on the night of the students’ disappearance. However, Mexican officials still insist this theory should be considered.
  • While there have been a few developments in the investigation this year, no new accusations have been presented in the case.
  • Although the PGR opened an internal investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Mexican officials, as recommended by the GIEI, the investigation was concluded poorly and the inspector general initially in charge of the investigation has revealed that he had been pressured to change his written resolution on the case.
  • Members of the GIEI have reported being subjected to digital spying attempts while still operating in Mexico. This information comes after a series of documented cases of the use of spyware against activists and journalists in Mexico, including three members of Centro Prodh, the legal representatives of the Ayotzinapa families.