MEXICO: Disappearance of children in institutions

[MEXICO CITY, 21 March 2009] – Children are reportedly going missing from alternative care institutions across Mexico. Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México, a national child rights NGO, is calling on the State to investigate the disappearances and hold those responsible to account.

On June 13, 2005, nine-year-old Ilse Michel Curiel Martínez was placed in a temporary children’s home managed by the Attorney General, following an order by a family judge in Mexico City.  

In January 2007, having spent more than a year and half in this institution, she was placed in a children’s home called Reintegración Social del Individuo A.C., known as “Casitas del Sur” (NGO).

On August 20, 2008, a year and seven months later, the same judge granted the custody of the girl to her grandmother. It took more than one month for the Office of Public Prosecutor to enforce the court order.

The NGO refused to return the girl to her family. On January 29, 2009, police police broke into Casitas del Sur and rescued all the children living there. Ilse Michel was not found.

Six months later, Ilse Michel is still missing and Mexican authorities have taken no legal action against the representatives of “Casitas del Sur”.

Ilse Michel’s case is not unique. Preliminary inquiries show that eleven other children are still missing:  six more children disappeared from “Casitas del Sur” in Mexico City, as well as two children from the institution ”La casita” in Cancun, Quintana Roo, and three from Centro de Adaptación e Integración de la Familia (CAIFAC) in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

The shelters concerned were founded by members of the Iglesia Cristiana Restaurada (Restored Christian Church), founded by Jorge Ederly. This church owns shelters in at least seven Mexican states and allegedly in other countries too. The Iglesia Cristiana Restaurada has important financial resources and strong mobilisation capacity.

Families, witnesses and human rights defenders have been harassed and received no protection from local authorities.

These cases shed light on the lack of mechanisms that regulate alternative care in public and private institutions in Mexico.

In its concluding observations to Mexico, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (2006) expressed concerned about the lack of information on children separated from their parents who are living in institutions. The Committee regretted the large number of children in institutions managed by the private sector, and the lack of information and oversight by the State on these institutions. The lack of State supervision created a void that has been filled by groups with hidden agendas and perhaps criminal intentions too.

There are a number of allegations circulating about why children are disappearing ranging from religious indoctrination, to illegal adoptions, to organ and people trafficking.

A large number of civil society and human rights organisations in Mexico have already subscribed to this appeal and have requested the Mexican government to take positive actions.

The Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México requests organisations, networks and individuals to write to the Mexican authorities urging them to:

1.conduct thorough investigations to find Ilse Michel and other missing children;

2.shed light on the activities carried out in the Iglesia Cristiana Restaurada’s shelters, holding their representatives responsible for the disappearance of children;

3.provide concerned children, families, witnesses and defenders with support and protection.

 

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