Monday, November 14, 2011

Mexico: War on Drugs and Human Rights. A crave for justice.

 On November 9th  Human Rights Watch issued an extensive 212-page report, Neither rights nor security, on the human rights consequences of the War on Drugs in Mexico, officially (greater involvement of the Mexican Army) in its sixth year. In the wake of the death of Mr. Francisco Blake Mora, Mexico's Interior Minister   in an apparent helicopter accident and the widening of the ATF gun running  sting operation (Fast and Furious)scandal in US Congress. The report examines the rising numbers of  enforced disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture cases attributed to State  forces (both Police and Military), also noting violence exerted by Non-State actors against civilian population. 
While HRW officials were able to meet Mr.Felipe Calderon, Mexico's president, to voice their concerns, Mexican NGO and social movements, who have been systematically  denouncing the high price that Mexican Society (latest example, asking the ICC to look into President Calderon's responsibility) is paying in the current climate of violence have not been heard. Additionally it shall be noted that the extent and depth of US involvement in the Mexican situation (notably through DEA, CIA and DOD) is essentially kept away from the public. We reproduce the report´s  executive summary adding underlining, highlights, hyperlinks, video, graphics and  pictures.Related and updated background material at the end.
Killing on the name of...The so-called war on drugs being waged by Mexican military and police forces has translated into thousands of civilian deaths. US authorities have yet to publicly reprimand or express concern about the  widespread  human rights violations happening right now south of their border. Source Voice of Mexico 


Neither Rights Nor Security 
Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico’s “War on Drugs”
It has been nearly five years since President Felipe Calderón declared “war” organized crime in Mexico. In the time since, the country has experienced a staggering rise in violence. After declining steadily for nearly two decades, the overall homicide rate grew by over 260% percent from 2007 to 2010. 

The government counted nearly 35,000 deaths related to organized crime from December 2006 to the end of 2010, with the number of killings increasing dramatically with each passing year, from 2,826 in 2007 to 15,273 in 2010. There have been more than 11,000 drug-related deaths reported in the Mexican press so far in 2011.

This dramatic surge in violence has been driven in large part by the struggle between and within powerful cartels to control the drug trade and other lucrative illicit businesses such as human trafficking. These groups have committed serious crimes against one another, as well as against members of the security forces. Their illegal activities have also touched virtually every sphere of public life, from extortions of small businesses to blockades of major highways; from closures of schools to nighttime curfews; from mass kidnappings to assassinations of public officials. They have used public displays of violence—from depositing severed heads in town squares to hanging mutilated bodies from overpasses— to sow terror, not only among their rivals, but also within the general population. The impact on Mexican society has been profound.

The Mexican government has a duty to take measures that will help protect Mexicans from crime; and when Mexicans are the victims of crime, the government has obligations to ensure the criminal justice system will function effectively to provide a remedy. When President Calderón took office in 2006, he inherited a country whose cartels were growing in strength, and whose security forces—both military and civilian—had a long track record of being both abusive and ineffective when it came to fulfilling this crucial function. Rather than taking the necessary steps to reform and strengthen Mexico’s flawed law enforcement agencies, Calderón chose to use them to launch a “war” on Mexico’s increasingly powerful criminal groups. He made the military the centerpiece of his public security strategy, which was almost entirely focused on confronting the cartels with force.


More than 50,000 soldiers are currently involved in large-scale counternarcotics operations across Mexico. In the places where they are deployed, these soldiers have taken on many of the responsibilities of both police and prosecutors—from patrolling neighborhoods to responding to shootouts, from investigating individual crimes to gathering intelligence on criminal groups—even as civilian oversight of the military’s operations has been reduced. The Armed Forces have been joined in their efforts by thousands of officers from the newly reconstituted Federal Police, and more than 2,200 separate state and municipal police forces, though cooperation between these security forces is often limited or superficial.

How have the security forces performed? Two years ago Human Rights Watch set out with this question. To answer it, we conducted in-depth research in five states significantly affected by drug-related violence: Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Nuevo León, and Tabasco. We conducted more than 200 interviews with a wide array of government officials, security forces, victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, and others. We also analyzed official statistics, gathered data through public information requests, and reviewed case files, legal proceedings, and human rights complaints, among other forms of evidence. What we have found is a public security policy that is badly failing on two fronts. It has not succeeded in reducing violence. Instead, it has resulted in a dramatic increase in grave human rights violations, virtually none of which appear to be adequately investigated. In sum, rather than strengthening public security in Mexico, Calderón’s “war” has exacerbated a climate of violence, lawlessness, and fear in many parts of the country.
Widespread Human Rights Violations
Human Rights Watch found evidence of a significant increase in human rights violations since Calderón launched his “war on organized crime.” In the five states examined, members of security forces systematically use torture to obtain forced confessions and information about criminal groups. And evidence points to the involvement of soldiers and police in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances around the country. The patterns of violations that emerge in the accounts of victims and eyewitnesses, an analysis of official data, and interviews with government officials, law enforcement officers, and civil society groups strongly suggest that the cases documented in this report are not isolated acts. Rather, they are examples of abusive practices endemic to the current public security strategy.
 
Torture
Human Rights Watch obtained credible evidence of torture in more than 170 cases across the five states surveyed for this report. The tactics we documented—which most commonly included beatings, asphyxiation with plastic bags, waterboarding, electric shocks, sexual torture, and death threats—are used by members of all security forces. The apparent aim of such tactics is to extract information about organized crime, as well as to elicit forced confessions that not only accept guilt but also a posteriori conceal the abuses by security forces leading up to and during coercive interrogations. Torture is most often applied between the time when victims are arbitrarily detained and when they are handed over to prosecutors, a period in which they are often held incommunicado on military bases or other illegal detention sites.
 
Enforced Disappearances
Human Rights Watch documented 39 “disappearances” where evidence strongly suggests the participation of security forces. Although witnesses saw security forces carry out the abductions in these cases, state officials denied having detained the victims or ever having held them in custody. In addition to cases we documented, the increasing number of cases reported to the UN Working Group on Disappearances, the national and state human rights commissions, and Mexican human rights groups all point to a rising incidence of the practice across the country. However, the crime’s prevalence is obscured by government officials’ classification of nearly all disappearances as levantones, or abductions by organized crime, before cases have even been investigated. And tracking its occurrence has further been obstructed by the fact that 24 of Mexico’s 32 states do not criminalize enforced disappearances.
Extrajudicial Killings
Human Rights Watch obtained credible evidence in 24 cases that security forces committed extrajudicial killings, and in most of these cases took steps to conceal their crimes. These killings fall into two categories: civilians executed by authorities or killed by torture; and civilians killed at military checkpoints or during shootouts where the use of lethal force against them was not justified. In the majority of these cases soldiers and police tampered with crime scenes, either to falsely present victims as armed aggressors or to cover up their excessive use of force. And in some cases, investigations strongly suggest that security forces manipulated crime scenes to present the impression that extrajudicial killings were executions perpetrated by rival drug cartels

Mexican military personnel  detaining a suspect in Michoacan State on of the worst hit by drug-related violence. Source Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
The Scale of the Abuses
The rising prevalence of torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other serious abuses is reflected in official statistics. The National Human Rights Commission  has received an increasing number of complaints of human rights violations committed by federal security forces over the course of the Calderón administration, and has directed a growing proportion of its recommendations— comprehensive reports documenting crimes by state officials—toward federal security forces. For example, the commission received 691 complaints of human rights abuses committed by soldiers against civilians from 2003 to 2006; the number increased to 4,803 complaints in the 2007 to 2010 period. And while the commission issued five recommendations concluding federal authorities had committed torture from 2003 to 2006, it issued twenty-five from 2007 to 2010. In a similar vein, the number of investigations opened by civilian and military prosecutors into crimes committed by security forces against civilians has increased significantly in recent years. According to the Army, for example, military prosecutors opened 210 investigations into crimes committed by soldiers against civilians in 2007, 913 in 2008, and 1293 in 2009.
 
Finally, international human rights institutions, such as the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, as well as human rights defenders and civil society groups, have also received rising numbers of complaints of human rights violations. All of this evidence, together with the findings detailed in this report, point to a continuing rise in human rights violations by security forces.
 
Why these victims?
The majority of the victims in the cases documented by Human Rights Watch were young men who came from lower or working-class backgrounds. Many had families and small children. They had a variety of jobs: they were car mechanics and taxi drivers, factory and construction laborers. The victims also included police officers, women and children, and some white-collar professionals and individuals with upper class backgrounds, including a university professor and an architect. The victims of these serious abuses—or their families in the cases of “disappeared” or murdered victims—declared that they were innocent of the wrongdoing of which they were accused and said that they had no knowledge of or ties to any illegal activity.

Our investigations found that, in nearly all cases, the only evidence offered by authorities of suspects’ guilt was incriminating statements given following torture or other abuse. There appeared to be no independent evidence to corroborate these coerced statements and it is not clear what evidence established reasonable suspicion about the individuals prior to their detention. To the contrary, the evidence in several of the cases we researched strongly suggests that authorities erred in targeting these particular individuals. For example, court records establish that a victim of torture who was accused of kidnapping a civilian was not even in Mexico when the alleged kidnapping took place. In other cases, victims have been vindicated by courts, or government bodies have issued statements affirming their innocence.

We wish to emphasize that we are not in a position to determine what factors existed in each case that may have led these victims to be targeted by the security forces. But even assuming that some of the victims whose accounts are provided in this report were criminally culpable, the abuse and litany of serious violations to which they were subjected are unacceptable in any circumstances, categorically prohibited under international law, and must be investigated and punished. Moreover, while in some cases people accused of serious crimes may have incentives to provide false information, Human Rights Watch has only included cases in this report where victim’s account is corroborated by the testimony of eyewitnesses who saw the abuses take place or attested to other elements of the victim’s account; by medical documentation; by similar patterns in the accounts of different individuals who had no connection with one another; or by investigations by state officials or credible third parties supporting elements of the victim’s account.
Failure to Investigate Human Rights Violations
Military and civilian prosecutors consistently fail to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into cases where evidence suggests civilians have been subjected to grave abuses. Human Rights Watch documented systematic flaws in the investigations into torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings which prevent soldiers and police from being held accountable.
 
Impunity for Torture
The Istanbul Protocol is an internationally recognized set of guiding principles to assess the physical and psychological condition of a potential victim of torture—and Mexico has committed to apply it in cases of suspected ill-treatment. Yet Federal and state justice officials rarely follow it. In addition, prosecutors routinely fail to critically examine evidence of possible mistreatment of detainees, such as medical exams documenting severe injuries or cases in which the “confessions” of several suspects are nearly verbatim copies of one another. Such failures mean that justice officials do not exclude confessions obtained through torture, nor do they collect evidence that is crucial for prosecuting soldiers and police who use abusive tactics. Instead, prosecutors and in some cases judges dismiss victims’ claims as cynical ploys to evade punishment, and systematically classify cases of possible torture as lesser crimes such as “injuries” without adequately investigating the allegations.
 
Impunity for Enforced Disappearances
The period immediately following an alleged disappearance is critical if investigators are to gather information that may reveal the whereabouts of the victim and prevent the victim ‘disappearing’ indefinitely or being killed in custody. However, justice officials routinely reject requests by victims’ families to open investigations in the immediate aftermath of alleged abductions perpetrated by state officials and sometimes even refuse to register official complaints. Instead, justice officials often direct families to police stations and military bases to see if the victim is in their custody, and make them wait several days before registering an official complaint. Government officials reflexively claim such cases are levantones, or abductions perpetrated by rival cartels, and in many cases accuse victims of having been targeted because they were involved in criminal activities—all prior to conducting an investigation. If and when investigations into disappearances are eventually opened, they are marked by serious shortcomings, such as not interviewing the state officials allegedly involved or tracing calls from victims’ cell phones after their abductions.
 
Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings
Despite the growing numbers of casualties in “confrontations” between security forces and alleged criminals, most killings are not investigated. In the rare instances in which investigations into such cases are opened, justice officials fail to take basic steps such as conducting ballistics tests or questioning the soldiers and police involved. Rather than question official reports—many of which are marred by inconsistencies and challenged by witness accounts—prosecutors accept security forces’ reports as fact and overlook evidence of excessive use of force or torture leading to death. Furthermore, in more than a dozen cases, families of the victims of killings told Human Rights Watch they had been pressured by the Army to sign settlements agreeing to abandon all efforts to seek criminal punishments for soldiers in exchange for compensation.
Military Justice
Nowhere is impunity more pronounced than in the military justice system. In our 2009 report, Uniform Impunity, Human Rights Watch documented the lack of impartiality and independence that results when the military investigates itself, and recommended that Mexico reform its Military Code of Justice to ensure that all cases of alleged human rights violations committed by the military against civilians be investigated and prosecuted in the civilian justice system. Since that report was released, both the Inter-American Court (in four recent rulings) and Mexico’s Supreme Court have issued judgments that call for such cases to be excluded from military jurisdiction. Yet the practice remains unchanged, as do the results: complaints of human rights violations continue to be sent to the military justice system, where they still go unpunished. In the five states surveyed for this report, military prosecutors have opened 1,615 investigations since 2007 into human rights violations allegedly committed by soldiers against civilians, according to data obtained through public information requests. Not a single one of those military investigations across all five states has resulted in a soldier being convicted. Moreover, the Military Prosecutor’s Office said it opened 3,671 investigations into human rights violationscommitted by soldiers against civilians from 2007 to June 2011. Only 15 soldiers were convicted during this period: less than one half of one percent.
 
Dangerous Rhetoric
Despite the fact that human rights violations are not adequately investigated, government officials consistently dismiss victims’ allegations as false and cast the victims as criminals—even as ranking officials publicly profess a firm commitment to upholding human rights. The model for this self-contradictory discourse has been provided by President Calderón, who on the one hand has held up human rights as the “central premise” of his government’s strategy against organized crime, while on the other has expressed his exasperation at hearing complaints “that are not true” of abuses committed by the military. Calderón has also repeatedly asserted that 90 percent of the people killed in drug-related violence are members of criminal groups. The president’s message has been echoed by civilian and military officials at all levels, from the secretary of the Navy, who recently declared that criminal gangs had tricked civil society groups into “holding up the banner of human rights to try to undermine the reputation of [government] institutions,” to a federal prosecutor in Tijuana, who told Human Rights Watch that detainees’ allegations of torture were false because “the only one who lies is the accused criminal.” Calderón’s statistics are also echoed by local politicians, as in the recent claims by officials in Nuevo León that 86 percent of victims in the state’s violent homicides in 2011 belonged to cartels.
 

Were such factual claims based on rigorous, objective investigations, Calderón and otherswould be justified in making them. However, the vast majority of complaints of human rights violations by security forces are never adequately investigated and nearly all alleged drug-related homicides are never prosecuted. Not only does this investigative lacuna raise serious doubts about the basis for the president’s and other officials’ claims, but it also reveals an inherent bias in the government’s attitude towards victims. The rhetoric sends a message to justice officials that victims’ complaints are unfounded and undeserving of serious investigation, while simultaneously conveying to security forces that their abuses are beyond reproach. 
For victims of grave human rights violations, their families, and human rights defenders, such rhetoric and the systematic lack of thorough investigations presents a stark choice.They can investigate crimes themselves, often at considerable risk. Or they can watch astheir cases languish in government channels. Those who choose the former find themselves facing daunting obstacles, from harassment and death threats by security forces to seemingly endless bureaucratic excuses and dilatory tactics on the part of their supposed advocates in the justice system. In many cases, investigators do not even attempt to conceal their collaboration with the officials accused of abuses, or they openly admit their fear or unwillingness to take on cases implicating security forces. As one prosecutor told a victim’s family, “you can’t win against the military.” After years of flawed, apathetic investigations with little progress, even those victims most committed to pushing for justice usually give up.
 
Blaming the Victims and the Presumption of Guilt
The presumption of innocence is enshrined as a fundamental right in Mexico’s Constitution, and is a central principle of its justice system, as well as many of the international human rights treaties the country has signed. Its exercise is not only valuable on its own merits, but is also critical to the effective application of justice, because it ensures that prosecutions are based on evidence rather than biases, which in turn leads to holding the right people accountable for committing crimes. Yet, despite these guarantees, a suspect in Mexico whose rights have been violated by officials seeking to build a criminal case against him often effectively bears twin burdens: he must prove his own innocence while simultaneously proving that his rights were violated by public officials. That is because, in practice, Mexico’s criminal justice system often presumes suspects are guilty until proven innocent, rather than requiring the prosecution to present solid evidence.The failure to investigate allegations of abuse and rights violations is an abdication of  Mexico’s responsibilities under international human rights law, which obligates the state to investigate credible allegations of abuse.  The perverse practice in Mexico, however, is that it is victims who are consistently obliged to prove that their rights were violated. Moreover, victims and their relatives are often told that the fact they suffered a human rights violation is proof in itself that they were involved in criminal activity. As the mother of a civilian whom evidence suggests was “disappeared” by police described it, “the official stance is: if something happened to you, it is because you were involved in something bad.”Some victims of human rights violations may themselves have previously committed crimes. But this does not justify the violation of the fundamental rights of detainees, and the fact that an individual is a criminal suspect should in no way lead authorities to discount his allegations of having been a victim of abuse. To the contrary, all citizens should benefit from the presumption of innocence, and the state should promptly and impartially investigate all allegations of human rights violations. Moreover, as several of the cases in this report demonstrate, there is good reason to believe that a significant portion of people identified as criminal suspects—particularly those in cases where the only evidence against them is a forced confession—are innocent.   
 
Lasting Impact on Victims and Their Families
Serious human rights violations committed by security forces can inflict deep and lasting wounds on victims and their relatives. Victims of torture told Human Rights Watch they experienced ongoing physical and psychological effects as a result of what they endured. A victim of waterboarding said that for months afterwards he could not bear to take a shower because the water reminded him of his torture. Even drinking liquids was difficult for him. Another victim who was suffocated repeatedly and beaten severely to the head said that since his interrogation he has suffered serious short-term memory loss, incapacitating migraines, and the loss of hearing in one ear.
 
The trauma and fear generated by grave human rights abuses extends to entire families. A young man who witnessed the extrajudicial execution of his brother by Navy officers in their family’s home described feeling terror every time he sees a military convoy pass. He said that since the night of the shooting his family has not returned to the home, because the place is too vivid a reminder of the incident and they do not feel safe living there. Abuses often have a significant economic and social impact on victims’ relatives, as in thecase of the uncle who adopted the two young children of his brother and sister-in-law after they were executed by soldiers from the Army.
 
The families of the disappeared suffer particularly cruel treatment, deprived of a sense of closure as they wait in vain for news about the fate of a loved one. This cruelty is compounded by government officials who, even when all evidence points to the contrary, accuse their loved ones of having been targeted because they were criminals, and by the hollow efforts of authorities to investigate, which leave relatives feeling dispirited and powerless. “We don’t know even know what to do anymore,” the wife of one victim told Human Rights Watch. “We know who did this and we can’t do anything.”
 
For the relatives of victims of killings by security forces, the fact that those responsible are not prosecuted and that victims are usually publicly branded as criminals is a source of ongoing suffering. And like the families of the disappeared, they continue to struggle to learn what happened to their loved ones. Said one father whose son had been killed by soldiers a year-and-a-half earlier, “They think that as time passes, we’ll forget what happened. We can’t. For us, it’s like it was yesterday. And we can’t resolve this until they admit they made a mistake—and are punished for it.”
 
Shortcomings of Mexico’s Public Human Rights Institutions
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and state human rights commissions have
the power to play a central role in preventing human rights violations and ensuring that those that have been committed are investigated and prosecuted. In certain cases, such as the killing of two children by soldiers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas and various cases highlighted in this report, the national commission has conducted solid, in-depth investigations, which demonstrate its ability to carry out complex ballistic, forensic, and crime scene analysis, perform expert medical exams in line with the Istanbul Protocol, and conduct skilled interviews. The national commission has also proven its capacity to marshal its findings into cogent recommendations, which assign responsibility for crimes to government officials and demand criminal investigations. So too have various state commissions carried out thorough investigations into some cases of human rights violations, such as those from Guerrero and Chihuahua cited in this report.
 
Too often, however, the commissions’ proven capacity is not put to use. In scores of cases, Human Rights Watch found officials from the commissions failed to conduct basic steps to investigate complaints, and either did not open investigations into cases where there was strong evidence of abuses, or closed them prematurely. And in more than a dozen cases, Human Rights Watch found the national commission declined its competence to investigate cases where evidence strongly suggested violations had taken place, and instead redirected them to civilian and military authorities through a practice called “path of orientation” (via de orientación), prior to conducting its own thorough investigations.

Even in cases where the commissions carry out comprehensive investigations, they often undermine the impact of their findings by failing to ensure that their recommendations are implemented. In particular, Human Rights Watch found that the commissions continue to abandon their work on cases when prosecutors open investigations into violations—a practice documented in a previous report by this organization—rather than monitoring the handling of inquiries to ensure that prompt, thorough investigations are undertaken. This lack of oversight contributes to a climate of impunity, allowing authorities with a track record of committing violations to stay in positions of authority where they may repeat abuses. For example, since 1991, the Guerrero State Human Rights Commission has issued 23 recommendations in which it found that the current chief of the investigative judicial police in northern Guerrero committed abuses, including cases of homicide, torture, and extortion. The same individual was also accused of having participated directly in the torture of a victim interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report.
 
Finally, the national commission continues to direct recommendations in cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers to the military justice system, virtually guaranteeing impunity. This practice runs counter to judgments of the Inter-American Court and Mexico’s Supreme Court, and contravenes international human rights standards, which a recent reform to Mexico’s Constitution elevated to equal standing as domestic law.
 
Relatives mourn at the funeral of Rodolfo Torre a PRI gubernatorial candidate for the State of Tamaulipas slained on June 2010 on the eve of the election alongside 6 members of  his entourage.Source WallStreet Journal
Failure to Improve Public Security
Not only do human rights violations in themselves undermine the rule of law, but they also can be counterproductive in reducing violence, dismantling criminal networks, and building the public confidence in institutions that is critical to effective counternarcotics efforts. Since the outset of Calderón’s “war on drugs,” violent crime has skyrocketed; abusive policing has undermined the investigation and prosecution of criminal suspects; and widespread abuse and corruption has antagonized civilians who otherwise could provide security forces with crucial information. Homicides tied to drug violence have increased every year since President Calderón implemented his public security strategy. The approximately 15,000 killings allegedly tied to organized crime in 2010, for example, represented an increase of nearly 60 percent from the previous year. In Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas—all states where the federal government has launched major counter-narcotics operations involving the military—the homicide rate in both 2008 and 2009 reached rates nearly twice as high as what had been the record over the previous two decades. Moreover, claims by the government that public security operations have been effective in reducing crime in places such as Tijuana are not borne out by the data, which shows that homicides, violent robbery, kidnappings, and extortions remain alarmingly high, despite some ephemeral and modest drops.
 
President Calderón has repeatedly argued that concerns over the scale of violence in Mexico are overblown, citing the fact that the country’s homicide rate is significantly lower than several countries in Latin America, such as Brazil and Colombia. However, the overall homicide rate provides an incomplete picture of violence in Mexico, because drug-related violence disproportionately affects certain regions more than others. For example, roughly a third of all homicides tied to organized crime in Mexico in 2010 occurred in just five cities, by the government’s own figures. Therefore, a more accurate reading of the severity of the violence can be found by looking at homicide rates in specific states and cities, virtually all of which are trending upwards. For example, in Ciudad Juárez the rate of killings per 100,000 inhabitants rose from 14.4 in 2007, to 75.2 in 2008, to 108.5 in 2009. Not only was Juarez’s rate in 2009 approximately seven times that of Mexico’s national rate, but it is also one of the highest in the world, far surpassing Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Medellin, Colombia, cities with some of the highest murder rates in the region.
 
This rise in violence has not been matched by a rise in criminal prosecutions. While security forces have detained tens of thousands of suspected cartel members—the majority allegedly detained in the act of committing a crime (in flagrante)—only a fraction of these cases have led to investigations, even fewer have resulted in suspects being charged with crimes, and fewer still have led to criminal sentences. For example, of the 35,000 killings the government says were tied to organized crime from December 2006 to January 2011, the federal prosecutor’s office registered 13,845 killings. (According to the Mexican Constitution, if indeed these killings were all tied to organized crime, federal prosecutors have the power to investigate and prosecute them.)  The office provided conflicting information as to the number of those cases it was investigating—first reporting it had opened 1,687 homicide investigations, and three months later saying it had only opened 997 investigations. In these cases, only 343 suspects have been charged. And according to statistics provided to Human Rights Watch by the federal judiciary in response to a public information request, federal judges have only convicted defendants for 22 homicides and other injuries tied to organized crime. The results at the state level are similarly abysmal. From 2009 through the middle of 2010, there were more than 5,000 deaths related to organized crime in Chihuahua. During the same period, only 212 individuals were found guilty in state courts for killings, according to information provided by the Chihuahua State Prosecutor’s Office.  

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