Fears for three forcibly disappeared by Mexican soldiers

Amnesty International has reiterated its call to the Mexican authorities to urgently establish the fate of three people who were taken by army personnel in December and have not been seen since.

Jose Angél Alvarado Herrera and his cousins Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza and Rocío Irene Alvarado Reyes were last seen on 29 December 2009, when a group of 10 soldiers took them from the town of Buenaventura, Chihuahua State, northern Mexico. The soldiers did not show any arrest warrants to them or their relatives who were present.

It is not known why the three were arrested or where they are being held. They are believed to be the latest victims of human rights violations committed by troops deployed to combat the rise of organized crime and drug cartels in Chihuahua.

Increasing reports of abuses committed by the military carrying out policing operations include details of enforced disappearances, unlawful killings, torture and arbitrary detention.

When relatives of the three filed a complaint with the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s Office in Buenaventura, an official told them that the military had carried out a raid in the area to detain criminal suspects and that the three were being held by the military.

A spokesman for the Joint Anti-Crime Police and Military Operation in Chihuahua (Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua), later denied that the army was holding them.

Nitza Paolo Alvarado Espinoza, managed to make a phone call to a friend on 4 February. She was crying and said, “Please help me, get me out of here, I’m scared”. At that moment the friend heard two men talking, one of whom said, “Bloody bitch, she is phoning, I told you not to leave her alone!” and the line was cut.

Two days later, soldiers went to the home of José Ángel Alvarado’s mother, and asked her a series of personal questions about herself and the three people being held.

The soldiers did not say why they were asking the questions, and told a neighbour who saw them going into the house that there would be consequences for him if he told anyone that they had been there.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to immediately start an impartial civilian investigation into this enforced disappearance and to charge the three with a recognisable criminal offence or release them, if they are in custody.

The organization also called for their families to be protected from intimidation and reprisals.

Released in December 2009, Amnesty International’s report, Mexico: New reports of human rights violations by the military, accused the authorities of failing to fully probe allegations of human rights violations committed by troops deployed to combat organized crime and drug cartels in the country.