Amnesty International takes no position on issues of sovereignty or territorial disputes. Borders on this map are based on UN Geospatial data.
Back to Mexico

Mexico 2023

The authorities continued to criminalize the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Land, territory and environmental defenders were criminalized for protesting and there were frequent killings of journalists and defenders. The government’s failure to protect refugees and migrants continued, nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruled that the maximum stay in an immigration detention centre was 36 hours. Access to abortion eased, with a ruling that the criminalization of abortion was unconstitutional. The number of femicides remained very high and cases were not properly investigated. More than 114,000 people had been registered as missing and disappeared since 1962. Relatives searching for disappeared people continued to face serious risks, such as enforced disappearance, murder, repression and threats. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Mexico must eliminate the concept of arraigo detention (precautionary detention without charge) and modify the pretrial detention system. The independence of the judiciary remained under threat, including through the arbitrary detention of judges. The construction of the “Mayan Train” continued despite environmental concerns. The government’s failure to phase out fossil fuels persisted, and work began at the “Dos Bocas” refinery. Many states had yet to change their civil codes regarding same-sex marriage, despite its authorization throughout Mexico in 2015.


Murders and enforced disappearances increased in the 16 years that the military were involved in public security operations.

The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) determined that members of the military and National Guard (the federal law enforcement institution) had committed serious human rights violations in 28 cases, including multiple crimes under international law, such as torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

In April, the Supreme Court invalidated the transfer of the National Guard to the Ministry of Defence (SEDENA), on the grounds that the constitution expressly stated that the National Guard was a civil entity and its actions had to be determined by the Secretariat of Public Security and Citizen Protection. In October, the Executive branch insisted that the National Guard had performed well and proposed to send another request to Congress to enable the National Guard to become part of the SEDENA, denying allegations of human rights violations from victims, civil society organizations and human rights activists.

Lack of transparency, accountability and access to information from SEDENA continued. In October, the Commission for Access to Truth, Historical Clarification and the Promotion of Justice for serious human rights violations between 1965 and 1990 published a report denouncing SEDENA’s obstruction of access to historical documentation relating to human rights violations committed during the political repression of 1965 to 1990.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

The authorities continued to criminalize and use excessive force against people exercising their right to protest, and used the judicial system disproportionately to criminalize land, territory and environmental defenders.1 In San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas state, members of the Colonia Maya neighbourhood’s board of directors were accused of abduction for their protest against the construction of residential housing in an environmentally protected area. In March and July, Miguel López Vega and Alejandro Torres Chocolatl, Nahua communicators and defenders in Zacatepec, Puebla state, were finally freed of charges of “obstruction of public works” for their protest against the construction of a drain that would pollute the Metlapanapa River. In May, César Hernández Feliciano and José Luis Gutiérrez Hernández, Tseltal defenders in Chilón, Chiapas state, were found guilty of the crime of “riot” for opposing the construction of a National Guard barracks in their territory. In March, Juan Diego Valencia Chan, Arturo Albornoz May and Jesús Ariel Uc Ortega, Mayan defenders in Sitilpech, Yucatán state, were accused of “attacks on roadways” for opposing the activities of a large pig farm in their territory because of the pollution, water contamination and health problems it was causing.

In September, authorities of the city of León, Guanajuato state, acknowledged excessive use of force against women who had been protesting against gender violence in 2020 and apologized to the victims.

Excessive use of force

Military forces continued to use unnecessary and excessive force and carry out extrajudicial executions. Impunity persisted for these crimes and human rights violations.

On 26 February, Mexican soldiers allegedly killed five young men travelling in a pick-up truck in the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. On 18 May, a surveillance camera showed members of the military forces allegedly killing five men in the same city. After the dissemination of the video, CNDH opened an investigation into the case, finding serious human rights violations and recommended that the army collaborate with the prosecutor’s investigations and support the victims’ families financially and psychologically.

In October, a criminal court in the city of Monterrey, Nuevo León state, established the criminal responsibility of members of the army for the extrajudicial execution in 2010 of Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo, students at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

The presence of military forces deployed in public spaces increased. In January, 6,060 members of the National Guard were temporarily deployed in the Mexico City subway system alleging security concerns. Local NGOs reported that the measure was inadequate because the main problem was the lack of maintenance of the subway, and the presence of the military did not increase security in the transport system.

Freedom of expression

Journalists and human rights defenders continued to be at significant risk. At least five journalists were killed in possible connection to their work, according to the organization Article 19. A report published in 2023 by the NGO Global Witness stated that 31 land defenders and environmental activists were killed in 2022. During the year, at least 13 human rights defenders were murdered, according to OHCHR. The Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists counted at least 188 cases of kidnappings, threats and physical aggressions against human rights defenders and journalists in 2023.

In April and May, new cases of the use of Pegasus spyware emerged against two members of the NGO Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre (Centro Prodh), and Alejandro Encinas, then undersecretary for human rights. The surveillance could be linked to their work on grave human rights violations, such as the Ayotzinapa case (see below, Enforced disappearances).

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

The number of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Mexico with the aim of reaching the USA or Canada increased. The Mexican Refugee Agency announced that 141,053 people had sought asylum in Mexico in 2023, most of them from Haiti, Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The authorities continued to fail to protect the rights to life and security of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. On 28 March, at least 40 migrants died and another 29 were hospitalized in the city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, due to a fire in a migration detention centre. Migrants were allegedly left locked up after the fire had started.2

In March, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling declaring that the maximum stay in an immigration detention centre was 36 hours, after which migrants and asylum seekers must be released. The court also stated that migrants and refugees must have a proper legal defence to protect their rights.

Women’s rights

The government agreed to keep public memorials commemorating women’s rights campaigners. In June, authorities placed metal fences around the Roundabout of Women who Fight in Mexico City to remove the memorial, but after pressure from civil society organizations and activists, Martí Batres Guadarrama, Mexico City’s head of government, agreed to keep the memorial.

Access to abortion improved in Mexico. In September, the Supreme Court declared the criminalization of abortion unconstitutional in the Federal Criminal Code in a case brought by feminist organizations. The decision meant that the authorities were obliged to guarantee access to abortion to women and people with gestational capacity. Likewise, the Supreme Court stated that the suspension of medical personnel and midwives for performing or assisting with abortion was also unconstitutional, since it had a discriminatory effect.

Cases of sexual violence and femicide remained high, and due diligence to investigate these crimes properly was lacking. Approximately nine women were murdered per day on average in 2023, according to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System. In Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, where the documentation of femicide started 30 years ago, there had still been no justice for many victims. Local organizations, victims’ families and Amnesty International publicly honoured the memory of the women who had been killed.

In January, a Prosecutor’s Office Specializing in Feminicides was created in San Luis Potosí state at the insistence of families that femicides be investigated properly. In February, the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Mexico recognized inadequacies in the investigations into the femicides of Nadia Muciño Márquez, Daniela Sánchez Curiel, Diana Velázquez Florencio and Julia Sosa Conde, and offered a public apology.

Enforced disappearances

The number of missing and disappeared people remained high. In 2023, the National Search Commission (CNB) registered at least 12,031 new cases of missing and disappeared people, of whom 8,426 were men, 3,596 were women, and nine were unidentified. According to official figures, a total of 114,004 people were registered as missing and disappeared between 1962 and the end of 2023.

Relatives searching for disappeared people faced serious risks, including enforced disappearance, killing, repression and threats. In May, Teresa Magueyal, who had been searching for her son since 2020, was murdered in Celaya, Guanajuato state. In October, Griselda Armas, who had been searching for her son since September 2022, was killed in Tacámbaro, Michoacán state, along with her husband. In August, families searching for disappeared people demanded access to the Institute of Forensic Sciences and Social Reintegration Centre, but reported that staff of the Attorney General’s Office of Queretaro attacked them and threatened them not to report the incident.

In July, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) published its sixth and final report relating to the case of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, who were forcibly disappeared in 2014. The experts emphasized the participation of Mexican military forces in the enforced disappearances and the lack of access to information held by public institutions. The GIEI subsequently announced its departure from the country due to lack of cooperation from the Mexican authorities. The president reacted by expressing his support for the army, criticizing civil society organizations representing the victims, and announcing an ongoing criminal investigation against Omar Gómez Trejo, former head of the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for Ayotzinapa, who resigned in 2022 after denouncing undue interference by the Attorney General’s Office in the investigation of the case.3

In August, the head of the CNB, Karla Quintana, resigned after the president announced the creation of a new census on disappearances, arguing that CNB figures were unreliable and too high. Civil society organizations and activists feared that the Executive branch might try to lower the official numbers of disappeared people to hide the failure of federal public security policies. In October, Teresa Guadalupe Reyes Sahagún was appointed as the new head of the CNB; civil society organizations expressed concern around the lack of consultation, participation, transparency and scrutiny in the recruitment process, as well as her lack of experience. In December, the Executive presented the results of the new census on disappearances, decreasing the official number of disappeared and missing people between 1962 and August 2023. It also revealed that they did not have enough information to search for 79,955 of those people.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Mexico in two judgments regarding arbitrary detention. The first case involved the arbitrary detention in 2006 of three men, two of them Indigenous, including Jorge Marcial Tzompaxtle Tecpile. The men were detained by police and confined for more than three months in arraigo detention (precautionary detention without charge) without access to a judge, and then put in pretrial detention for a further two years.4 The second case concerned Daniel García Rodríguez and Reyes Alpízar Ortiz, who were held in pretrial detention for more than 17 years for their alleged participation in a homicide, subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and held in arraigo detention.

In both cases, the court ordered Mexico to reform its legal framework, eliminating arraigo detention and modifying the pretrial detention system. The court stated that mandatory pretrial detention was contrary to the American Convention on Human Rights.

In September, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged the Mexican authorities to remove mandatory pretrial detention and arraigo detention provisions from the constitution. The working group also expressed concern over the militarization of public security, the excessive use of force during arrests, and the deprivation of liberty under an overly punitive drug policy since 2006.

The president continued to make public accusations against the Supreme Court and the judiciary when their decisions went against the plans of the Executive branch. In June, Judge Angélica Sánchez, based in Veracruz state, was accused of “crimes against public faith and influence peddling”, after her decision to release a man accused of homicide due to lack of evidence. She was detained in the capital, Mexico City by members of the police and National Guard assigned to the National Commission against Kidnappings (CONASE), in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office of Veracruz. The Federal Public Defender’s Office described her detention as an attack on judicial independence. Serious irregularities were raised, including arbitrary detention and the lack of authority of the National Guard and CONASE to detain her. In July, she was released from prison and held under house arrest.

Right to a healthy environment

The construction of the “Mayan Train” (a 1,525km intercity railway across the Yucatán Peninsula) continued in 2023, threatening the environment in southern Mexico, as well as the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Activists and civil society organizations denounced the government’s failure to enforce the federal environmental law while building the railway and stated that the project would have an adverse effect on the ecosystem, particularly the underwater system in the south-east of the country. The federal environmental law states the authorities’ obligations to protect the environment and carry out environmental impact assessments of public works. The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of the Mexico-United States-Canada Treaty recommended that the Mexican authorities produce a report on the risks and impacts related to the project.

The government continued promoting the production and use of fossil fuels. Authorities inaugurated the “Dos Bocas” refinery in the Tabasco state in 2022 and operations began in 2023.

Eighty-four people from the El Bosque community in Tabasco state were evacuated on 1 November due to sea level rises attributed to the climate crisis. They demanded relocation and that their basic needs be met, including housing, schooling and public services. The government had promised to relocate them, but nothing had materialized by the end of the year.5

LGBTI people’s rights

Same-sex marriage had been authorized in all 32 states since 2015, but some states had not yet modified their civil codes. In June, the local congress of Nuevo León state amended the civil code to establish that two people aged over 18 years could get married regardless of their sex. Other states that had not yet modified their codes to recognize same-sex marriage included Aguascalientes, Chiapas and Chihuahua.

Right to health

In May, the authorities amended various articles in the General Law on Health to state that the Mexican Institution of Public Health would provide access without fees to health services, medicines and other supplies to people not affiliated to a public health institution. Non-affiliated people are those without a formal job in which public healthcare is paid by the employer, those without a family member in formal employment, or those who were not students. Although the amendments aimed to guarantee the right to health, particularly to individuals in more vulnerable situations, activists and organizations claimed that the Mexican Institution of Public Health did not have sufficient economic resources to fulfil the guarantee.

  1. “Mexico: Land and freedom? Criminalizing defenders of land, territory and environment”, 13 September
  2. “Mexico: 39 people die in migrant detention centre fire”, 30 March
  3. “Mexico: Authorities’ actions impede access to truth and justice for Ayotzinapa”, 2 October
  4. “Mexico must comply with the judgment of the CoIDH regarding arraigo and pretrial detention”, 30 January (Spanish only)
  5. “Mexico: Climate displaced community needs urgent relocation”, 8 November