Veracruz, Mexico: The largest clandestine graves in Latin America

Colectivo Solecito de Veracruz

The Hague – Mexico, DF, 18 October 2022. The state of Veracruz, an epicenter of violence, corruption and organised crime, contains the two largest clandestine graves in Latin America, with over 600 bodies. State authorities systematically carried out, between 2012 and 2016, enforced disappearances, which may amount to crimes against humanity under international law. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), civil society organisations in Mexico and abroad ask the International Criminal Court to investigate.

In the city of The Hague, Netherlands, headquarters of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Lucy Diaz, coordinator of the Solecito Collective, a coalition composed by relatives of disappeared persons in Veracruz, presented a public version of the report "Hasta encontrarlos: enforced disappearances by security forces in Veracruz constitute crimes against humanity". A confidential version of the report has already been presented to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC.

The report was elaborated by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), one of its Mexican member organizations, Litigio Estratégico en Derechos Humanos AC (IDHEAS), and Solecito. It gives an account of the context of violence, criminality and corruption that prevailed in the State of Veracruz during the mandate of former governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa (December 2010 - October 2016). During this period, municipal, state and federal authorities were complicit or directly collaborated in the commission of enforced disappearances.

The 56-pages document mainly presents the results of investigations carried out by the signatory organisations on 41 cases of disappearance of persons that occurred in the state of Veracruz. In at least 22 cases, common elements and patterns involving the participation of state actors were found. Likewise, the report documents the discovery of the largest clandestine graves in Latin America, today known as "Colinas de Santa Fe" and "El Arbolillo", both near the Port of Veracruz, where 615 bodies were located between 2016 and September 2022. Of the cases documented in the report, the bodies of seven victims were found in the clandestine grave Colinas de Santa Fe. Despite the uncovering of this significant evidence, the report describes the profound omission and negligence on the part of state authorities in the investigation and prosecution of cases of enforced disappearance.

"In Veracruz, the complicity between authorities and organized crime, in addition to the absolute impunity that reigns in Mexico, has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, particularly of young people. Our state has been turned into a mass clandestine cemetery, where nobody is accountable for all these deaths"

Lucy Diaz, coordinator of the Solecito Collective.

Analysing the evidence found, the report establishes that many of these acts committed during the administration of former governor Duarte de Ochoa amount to crimes against humanity, and requests the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to open a preliminary examination.

"The contextual analysis of the cases, as well as the evidence gathered during the investigations, allow us to affirm that during the period covered by the report, there was systematic use violence by State agents against a specific sector of the population of the State of Veracruz"

affirms Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, Director of IDHEAS.

In particular, these attacks were perpetrated against people in economically marginalised areas who, due to their situation of vulnerability, were targeted by organised crime groups. These institutions carried out operations that resulted in serious human rights violations, which to this day remain unpunished, due to the collaboration and complicity of the entire governmental apparatus.

"This report is yet another evidence of the existence of crimes against humanity in Mexico, committed by organised crime, state authorities or both acting together. It is outrageous that in Veracruz enforced disappearances continue to take place"

adds Jimena Reyes, FIDH Director for the Americas

Impunity levels are still very high in Veracruz, despite the discovery of the two largest mass graves in Latin America in that state. Today we call on Mexico’s federal authorities to recognize the existence of crimes against humanity and investigate these crimes, and urge the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary examination.

Read the report here:

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