The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has slammed the Mexican government for making the country's "very serious" human rights crisis worse by not doing enough to tackle impunity.
The critical report triggered a vehement response from the government that called it "biased" and "unfounded," and insisted that it misrepresents both the problems the country faces, and the efforts being made to deal with them.
The report, released on Wednesday and based on a visit to Mexico carried out by members of the Commission in September, places its critique firmly within the context of the country's drug wars that, according to estimated figures from the United Nations, had killed over 150,000 people by mid-2015.
It blames the military-led offensive launched by former President Felipe Calderón in December 2006 for both failing to contain criminal violence and encouraging human rights violations. It says that these have continued unabated during the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The report highlights disappearances — both those carried out by criminal groups and forced disappearances involving members of the security forces. It also underlines evidence of extrajudicial murders, and torture, and stresses the particular vulnerability of women, children, migrants, human rights defenders, and journalists. At multiple points it lambasts the authorities for failing to properly investigate or prosecute crimes.
"The current crisis of gross violations of human rights in Mexico is in part a consequence of the impunity," the report says, pointing out that many victims assume they will never get justice because they do not trust the judicial system.
While the Commission's report acknowledges some recent advances, particularly in reforms of the legal framework, it points out that while more rights have been recognized in theory they are still violated in practice.
"Structural and almost absolute impunity that permeate these serious crimes has perpetuated, and in some cases encouraged, the repetition of serious violations of human rights," it says.
The Peña Nieto administration immediately responded with a statement that said the report is "unfounded and biased." It took particular objection to the Comission's decision not to pay more attention to legislative advances in recent years, and rebuffed the report's focus on just six states as unrepresentative of Mexico as a whole.
"Unfortunately, it does not reflect the general situation of the country and it is based on wrong premises and misdiagnoses'," the statement said. "The country is not experiencing a human rights crisis."
Nathaniel Janowitz contributed to this report.