Between 29 November and 1 December 2017, PBI accompanied Tita Radilla Martínez, vice-president of the Association of Relatives of Victims of Disappearance, Detention and Human Rights Violations in Mexico (AFADEM), during evidence gathering in Atoyac.

In this town in Guerrero during the 1970s, 470 people were disappeared, among them Rosendo Radilla Pacheco, social activist and Tita’s father. In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACoHR) handed down a sentence against the Mexican State in the Radilla case. Eight years later, the reparations mandated by the court continue to be implemented, such as the effective search and immediate location of Mr. Rosendo Radilla Pacheco or his remains. In this context, experts in forensic anthropology from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (PGR) carried out a new search for evidence in Atoyac, specifically at the former site of the 27th Infantry Battalion. Following Tita Radilla’s request, PBI accompanied AFADEM during this exercise. For the seventh time, agents from the Prosecutor’s Office delineated the plot in order to carry out new excavations later this year. The former military base was the last place where Rosendo Radilla was seen alive, in August 1974.

This hunt for new evidence represents progress for the relatives of disappeared people seeking justice. However, it is important to highlight that the sluggishness that characterises these processes often impacts the psychological health of victims and their families. During all these years accompanying AFADEM we have observed that the roundtables to review advances in the case have not been implemented regularly. In addition, long periods of time usually intercede agreements reached during these discussions and their implementation. The IACoHR sentence orders the Mexican government to publicly accept responsibility for the crime and to provide free and immediate psychological and/or psychiatric help to the victims. For Tita Radilla and AFADEM, full reparations should include the whole community due to the high number of forced disappearances committed in Atoyac. The town’s residents as a whole have been direct or indirect victims of human rights violations.

Forced disappearance remains a widespread phenomenon in Mexico to this day. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on his report on Mexico, “the lack of effective investigations is stunning and the impunity on this matter alarming. It is of special concern that no soldier had been convicted of forced disappearance until August 2015 despite the high number of disappearances presumably perpetrated by members of the Armed Forces”. Disappearance cases continue to be reported throughout the country while no progress has been observed in the investigations or conviction of those responsible. The recently approved law on disappearances contemplates the participation of relatives, victims and human rights organisations in the creation of several bodies to deal with the issue. PBI sees this participation as essential to strengthening the rule of law and the fight against impunity.