Constitutional Provisions

The 1917 Constitution of the United Mexican States (as amended, most recently in August 2018), provides that every person Mexico "shall enjoy the human rights guarantees granted by this Constitution and by international treaties to which Mexico is party, which cannot be restricted or suspended except in such cases and under such conditions as are herein provided by this Constitution.”Art. 1(1), 1917 Constitution of the United Mexican States (as amended).Fundamental human rights, such as to life and to freedom from torture, are non-derogable.Art. 29(2), 1917 Constitution of the United Mexican States (as amended).Article 9 of the Constitution guarantees the right of peaceful assembly.

Article 21(9) stipulates that: “The actions of public security institutions will be governed by the principles of legality, objectivity, efficiency, professionalism, honesty, and respect for the human rights recognised by this Constitution.”

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1948 Charter of the Organization of American States State Party
1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights State Party
Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights Yes

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Until 2019, the 2009 Federal Police Act (Ley de la Policia Federal) (as amended) governed the use of force by the Federal Police. But in 2019, this body was effectively abolished by President López Obrador and replaced by the National Guard. The 2017 Interior Security Act governed use of force in the exercise of Homeland Security powers, but was struck down the following year by the Supreme Court on the gounds of unconstitutionality.

A new federal law on police use of force was issued in May 2019 according to which firearms or lethal force may be used "to repel highly dangerous resistance" ("las resistencias de alta peligrosidad" in the original Spanish). Amnesty International has contested the constitutionality of the new law in an amicus curiae. Specific changes to the law have been proposed by representatives of civil society.

Use of Force in Custodial Settings

The 1993 Public Security Act applicable to Mexico City regulates the use of force in custodial settings, requiring that members of the Public Security Corps shall “watch over the life and physical integrity of the persons detained or in their custody" and “not inflict or tolerate any acts of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatments to the persons in their custody, even when complying with the order of a superior or arguing special circumstances such as a threat to public safety, urgency of investigation or any other grounds. Should they acquire knowledge of such acts, they must report them immediately to the competent authority”.Art. 17(XI-XII), 1993 Public Security Act.

Police Oversight

There is no independent external police oversight body in Mexico although the Ombudsman can take up complaints of unlawful use of force against the police.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In 2019, in its Concluding Observations on Mexico, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern 

about the numerous reports of excessive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officers. In this connection, the Committee notes with concern that some of the provisions contained in the National Act on the Use of Force, which was published in the Official Gazette on 27 May 2019, run counter to the provisions of the Covenant and the Committee’s general comment No. 36 (2019) on the right to life. It is of particular concern to the Committee that the law does not clearly specify the circumstances in which the use of lethal force is permissible, does not provide for records to be kept of cases in which force has been used and for appropriate mechanisms to be established to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of force, and affords protection against the use of weapons at public demonstrations and meetings only if the event is deemed to have a lawful purpose

In its Concluding Observations on Mexico issued the same year, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern about the "lack of clarity regarding the rules applicable to the use of force" and called on the authorities to

Adopt the national legislation on the use of force envisaged under article 73 (XXIII) of the Constitution, in accordance with the content of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials

In 2015, in its Concluding Observations on Mexico, the Committee on the Rights of the Child had expressed its particular concern about the "prevalence of torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment of children, particularly migrant children, children in street situations and children in police custody and other forms of detention".

International Criminal Court

Over the years, a number of complaints have been filed against Mexican leaders, including the then president Felipe Calderon, for crimes against humanity as a result of extrajudicial executions during the struggle against drug cartels in Mexico. The complaints were summarily dismissed by the erstwhile prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo.  


Fernández Ortega v. Mexico (2020)

The Inter-American Court found in 2009 that Ms. Fernández Ortega was a victim of sexual violence committed by State agents (the military) and a victim of torture. The rape was committed for the purpose of obtaining information from Ms. Fernández Ortega and punishing, controlling, humiliating, intimidating, and degrading her. Subsequently provisional measures have been ordered to protect her and her family, most recently in June 2020.

Women victims of sexual torture in Atenco v. Mexico (2018) 

In 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Mexico had violated fundamental human rights (right to life and the right to peaceful assembly) for excessive and arbitrary use of force during a protest in Atenco in 2006. The Court criticised the lack of a domestic framework regulating use of force in accrdance with international standards, specifically with respect to the use of force by security companies, as well as the lack of accountabiity mechanisms and the lack of adequate training of the police. 

A feature of the police response was "the widespread use of sexual violence against female protesters. Women reported being groped, stripped, beaten, and insulted with vulgar language and sexual slurs. Many were raped. Others were threatened with rape." 


In March 2018, two police officers were sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of a Mexican journalist, "marking a rare conviction in a country where crimes committed against media members almost always remain in the realm of impunity." The police officers, identified as Luigui Heriberto N and José Francisco N, were convicted of killing newspaper owner Moisés Sánchez in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, the deadliest place for journalists to work in the hemisphere. The two officers were also ordered to pay $18,000  in compensation, according to a statement from the Veracruz prosecutor’s office.


Constitution of the United Mexican States (as amended in 2018) (Spanish original)

2009 Federal Police Act (Spanish original)

2017 Interior Security Law (Spanish original)

1993 Public Security Act for Mexico City (Spanish original)

Amnesty International amicus curiae to the National Supreme Court of Justice (2019)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Mexico (2019)

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Mexico (2019)

Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations on Mexico (2015)

Women victims of sexual torture in Atenco v. Mexico (2018) 

Fernández Ortega v. Mexico (Summary)

Fernandez Ortega v. Mexico (Provisional Measures) (2020)