Mexico 2017/2018

Violence increased throughout Mexico. The armed forces continued to undertake regular policing functions. Human rights defenders and journalists were threatened, attacked and killed; digital attacks and surveillance were particularly common. Widespread arbitrary detentions continued to lead to torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. Impunity persisted for human rights violations and crimes under international law.

Mexico received a record number of asylum claims, mostly from nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Venezuela. Violence against women remained a major concern; new data showed that two thirds of women had experienced gender-based violence during their lives. The rights to housing and education were compromised by two major earthquakes.

Early in the year an increase in gas prices caused social unrest, including road blockages, lootings and protests throughout the country, leading to hundreds of arrests and some fatalities. Throughout the year, security forces carried out a number of operations to crack down on a spate of clandestine robberies of petroleum. At least one of these security operations resulted in a likely extrajudicial execution by the army in May. The National Human Rights Commission raised concerns over deficient security measures in prisons that affected the rights of people deprived of their liberty. There were riots in prisons including in the states of Nuevo León and Guerrero, and a hunger strike in the federal maximum security prison at Puente Grande, Jalisco state.

The new adversarial criminal justice system, fully operational since June 2016, continued to replicate problems from the old inquisitorial system, including violations of the presumption of innocence and the use of evidence collected in violation of human rights and other illicit evidence. Bills were introduced in Congress that would weaken fair trial guarantees and expand the scope of mandatory pre-trial detention without a case-by-case assessment by a judge.

Congress approved long-overdue laws against torture and other ill-treatment and against enforced disappearance by state actors and disappearances committed by non-state actors. Legal reforms allowed the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Sustained public debates over the transformation of the federal Attorney General’s Office, responsible for law enforcement and prosecution, into an independent body were conducted during the year. In August, civil society organizations and opinion leaders presented a proposal for the design of this institution.

In October, the acting Attorney General removed the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes, regarded as independent by different political forces, after he publicly reported being subjected to political pressure to disregard a high-profile corruption case.