UN sees signs of Mexican official involvement in wave of disappearances

GENEVA, May 30 (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights office has "strong indications" that Mexican federal security forces are behind a wave of disappearances in and around the city of Nuevo Laredo, a statement from the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday.

Mexican officials did not immediately respond to the UN allegations.

The U.N. has documented the disappearance of 21 men and two women in Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas State from February until May 16 this year, the statement from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said.

A local human rights organization put the number of disappearances at more than 40, and the U.N. human rights office received testimonies that they were allegedly perpetrated by a federal security force, often late at night or at dawn, the statement said.

"Many of these people are reported to have been arbitrarily detained and disappeared while going about their daily lives," the statement quoted Zeid as saying.

"It is particularly horrific that at least five of the victims are minors, with three of them as young as 14. These crimes, perpetrated over four months in a single municipality, are outrageous," he said.

More on violence in Mexico:

Zeid has called on Mexican authorities to end the disappearances "amid strong indications that these crimes have been committed by federal security forces," the statement said.

The authorities had ample information and evidence but had made little progress in investigating. Relatives of those missing had so far found the bodies of at least six victims, the statement said.

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission asked the Navy and others to protect the population of Tamaulipas, but at least three disappearances had happened since then.

Zeid said the events were a litmus test of whether Mexico's new General Law on Disappearances represented real change or a continued failure of justice.

"States have the obligation to guarantee the security of the population," he said.

"In the case of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions carried out by public officials, it is even more urgent for the state to act to demonstrate that it neither condones nor tolerates the commission of such grave violations.” (Reporting by Tom Miles Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)