Activists urge ICC to probe Mexico's 'crimes against humanity'

The Hague (AFP) –


Rights activists on Wednesday urged the International Criminal Court to probe years of killings and disappearances, as well as torture and detentions, in violence-plagued northern Mexico.

"From 2009... the whole chain of state security authorities colluded with the Zetas (drug cartel) to commit crimes against humanity," said Jimena Reyes, Americas director for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

With about 100 Mexican associations, the FIDH has published a 72-page report to be presented on Thursday to ICC prosecutors.

It requests the prosecutor's office open a preliminary probe so "the state of Mexico recognises that crimes against humanity are being committed," Reyes told a press conference in The Hague.

The violence "has to stop, as the situation has reached an incomprehensible level of cruelty," she told AFP.

Focusing on the northern state of Coahuila, which borders the US state of Texas, the report analyses some 500 cases including torture, deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearances.

Across Mexico, more than 32,000 people have been reported missing and 200,000 have been killed in raging drug violence, which has seen rival cartels wage war on each other and Mexican security forces.

The report alleges that from 2009 to 2012 state security forces with the Zetas -- an ultra-violent group founded by former special forces soldiers -- "committed crimes against humanity ... in a context of undeniable collusion".

"The collusion and corruption was such that high-ranking officials in the Coahuila government implemented a policy of support and commission of crimes with the Zetas, even while simultaneously communicating publicly about their supposed fight against those groups," the report said.

It further alleges that from 2012-2016 "state security authorities have directly committed crimes against humanity through the special forces."

President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012 on a pledge to reduce the violence.

But since then "the situation has not changed," the report says.

"High-level government officials profited millions of dollars in order to let the Zetas commit their crimes," said Reyes.

- 'Extreme sadism' -

Their actions are "characterised by extreme sadism, and they subject their enemies to brutal torture, including mutilation and decapitation, and then hang their bodies in bridges and streets," the report added.

FIDH has done in-depth investigations into 32 test cases involving 73 people who suffered rape, prolonged beatings with sticks or weapons, or repeated suffocation using plastic bags, to the point of losing consciousness.

Mexico is a signatory of the Rome Statute, which underpins the ICC. But of all the cases under way at the tribunal, only one is in South America.

Since 2004, the prosecutor's office has been examining allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2001 in the government's long-standing conflict against rebels.

Mexican lawyer Ariana Garcia, who works with victims and lives under protection, said her country's justice system "simply doesn't work."

"The state does not have the capacity or the will to deliver justice to the victims of enforced disappearances," she said.