Mexico - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in UNITED MEXICAN STATES

Amnesty International  Report 2013


The 2013 Annual Report on
Mexico is now live »

Head of state and government: Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN) was elected president in controversial elections. President Vicente Fox completed his mandate without fulfilling the administration's commitment to end human rights violations and impunity, which remained widespread. The Federal Congress once again failed to approve reforms to the Constitution and the public security and criminal justice systems to improve the protection of human rights.

There were continuing reports of torture, arbitrary detention, excessive use of force and unfair judicial proceedings, particularly at state level. Serious human rights violations were reported in Oaxaca State in the context of a protracted political crisis. Violence against women remained endemic in many states and the campaign for justice for the women of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City continued. Several journalists were killed.

Human rights defenders and political opponents in some states remained at risk of harassment or unfounded criminal prosecutions. Measures to prosecute those responsible for systematic human rights violations in previous decades failed. Indigenous peoples in several states continued to face discrimination including in access to basic services, such as health care and education.

Background

High levels of violent crime and public insecurity continued to be major public concerns. In November several armed opposition groups reportedly claimed responsibility for the detonation of three explosive devices in Mexico City. Central American and Mexican migrants seeking to cross the border to the USA could face increased threats to their safety with the proposed extension of the border wall by the US government.

Elections and their aftermath

The fairness of the national elections and the narrow margin of the PAN victory were challenged by the second-placed candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD). After several weeks of major street protests by PRD supporters demanding a full recount of votes, the Federal Electoral Tribunal ruled there were only sufficient grounds for a partial recount of ballot boxes. In September the Tribunal confirmed Felipe Calderón as President. Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his supporters refused to accept the results and in November set up a "parallel" government. On

1 December, Felipe Calderón was sworn in as President, without making any clear commitment to strengthen the protection of human rights. The appointment of the Governor of Jalisco State as federal Interior Minister raised concern owing to his failure to prevent or punish serious human rights violations committed in Jalisco during his governorship.

International human rights mechanisms and reform

The Mexican government appeared before six UN thematic committees to assess its compliance with treaty obligations. These included the UN Children's Convention, the UN Convention against Racism, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Women's Convention, the Convention against Torture and the Migrant Workers' Convention. The respective committees made a series of recommendations. The government of President Fox played a positive role in UN reform to strengthen human rights protection. Mexico took over the presidency of the new UN Human Rights Council.

There was little progress on government human rights initiatives. The implementation of the National Human Rights Programme remained inadequate. The federal judiciary published the results of its consultation on reform of the judicial system. With the exception of some reforms to the juvenile justice system, there were virtually no advances in introducing proposed constitutional and legal reforms to ensure the protection of human rights in the public security and criminal justice system.

Oaxaca crisis

In June, state police used excessive force against striking teachers occupying Oaxaca city centre and bringing it to a standstill. The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca, APPO) was formed to support the teachers and demand the resignation of the governor. Its supporters occupied official buildings and TV and radio stations. State police, often wearing civilian clothes, reportedly shot at APPO supporters, resulting in the deaths of at least two and injuries to many others. APPO supporters established barricades blocking city streets. During the crisis, state police reportedly arbitrarily arrested, held incommunicado and tortured several teachers and APPO supporters before filing charges on the basis of allegedly fabricated evidence.

At the end of October, municipal and state police reportedly attacked several barricades set up by APPO supporters, leading to the deaths of three civilians and injuries to many others. Some 4,500 Federal Preventive Police (Policía Federal Preventiva, PFP) entered the city using tear gas, batons and water cannons. Some protesters responded with violence and scores were arrested. Many were reportedly beaten and threatened by the PFP once in custody. At least 19 PFP officials were reportedly injured. In November, after clashes with police, more than 140 people were arrested, many of whom were reportedly not involved in violence. Scores were reportedly beaten and denied access to family, medical attention and legal advice. More than 90 remained in custody at the end of the year.

In early November teachers returned to work, but some faced threats and detention. In December, scores of APPO leaders and supporters were subject to warrants issued during the protests, some allegedly on the basis of fabricated evidence. There was concern that those involved in peaceful protest would be detained and be subject to unfair judicial proceedings. During the crisis, more than 17 civilians were reportedly killed and scores of others injured. Federal and state authorities failed to effectively investigate allegations of serious human rights violations by the end of the year.

On 27 October, US reporter Bradley Roland Will was shot and killed on a barricade while filming a clash between protesters and armed gunmen, later identified as local governing party officials. Two officials were detained, but later released without charge after state authorities concluded APPO supporters were responsible. There was serious concern about impartiality of the official investigation.

On 29 October Jorge Alberto López Bernal died as a result of being struck by a tear gas canister reportedly fired by the PFP. Federal authorities did not conduct criminal investigations into this or other reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by PFP agents.

Excessive force - public security

High levels of violent crime, often related to drug trafficking, undermined public security in many parts of the country. Massive policing operations against protesters led to serious violations of human rights.

In April, federal and state police evicted striking miners blocking access to the Lázaro Cárdenas steel plant in Michoacán State. Violent clashes ensued in which José Luis Castillo Zúñiga and Héctor Álvarez Gómez were shot and killed by police and 54 other people were injured, including police officers. In October the National Human Rights Commission found that federal and state police had acted illegally and had used excessive force, and called for a criminal investigation. The authorities refused to comply with the recommendation.

On 3 May, Mexico State Police clashed with demonstrators in Texcoco resulting in a major state and federal police operation in the neighbouring town of San Salvador Atenco where a number of police were reportedly held hostage. Police used tear gas, batons and firearms against members of the community, detaining 211 people over the two days, many of whom were repeatedly beaten and tortured while being transported to the state prison. Twenty-six people remained in custody at the end of the year accused of kidnapping, despite serious concerns about the reliability of evidence presented against several of them and the fairness of judicial proceedings. Even Magdalena García Durán, who won a federal injunction against her unfair detention, remained in custody. A number of state police officers were under investigation for assault at the end of the year.

Violence against women and Ciudad Juárez

Violence against women and gender discrimination remained widespread throughout Mexico. The Special Federal Congressional Commission on Feminicide produced a major report on murders of women in 10 states. The report highlighted the consistent failure of state governments to compile reliable information on gender-based violence or to put in place effective measures for its prevention and punishment. A federal law strengthening the right of women to live free from violence was passed. In February a Special Federal Prosecutor's Office for Crimes of Violence against Women was established.

There were continued reports of murders of women in Ciudad Juárez and the City of Chihuahua. The Chihuahua state authorities introduced some improvements in response to new killings. However, they failed to prosecute many previous cases or hold to account any officials implicated in the original botched investigations. The Federal Attorney General's Office concluded its investigation into past cases, but failed to acknowledge the scale of gender-based violence in Ciudad Juárez over 13 years, leading to criticism that it was seeking to downplay the murders and abductions of women in the city.

In June, after two and half years in custody, David Meza Argueta was acquitted of the murder of Nayra Azucena Cervantes in Chihuahua City in 2003. The basis of the case against him was a confession reportedly extracted under torture by Chihuahua judicial police. David Meza filed a complaint of torture against state officials. Two state judicial police were reportedly expelled from the force for using torture during their investigations.

In May, during the police operation in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, 47 women were detained and transported to prison. At least 26 women reported to the National Human Rights Commission that they had been sexually assaulted or raped by state police officers during the journey to prison. At the end of the year, the local state-led investigation had resulted in only minor charges against one of the officials involved.

Arbitrary detention, torture and unfair judicial procedures

Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, torture and violations of due process rights of criminal suspects remained common. Courts continued to overlook reports of such abuses. Access to legal counsel was often denied in the early stages of detention and state-appointed lawyers frequently failed to guarantee the right to effective defence. The poorest and most disadvantaged detainees, such as Indigenous peoples, were often denied minimum fair trial standards.

In May, two Indigenous men, Aureliano Álvarez Gómez and Tiburcio Gómez Pérez, were detained in connection with an alleged kidnapping in the municipality of Huitiupán, Chiapas State. No arrest warrant was produced and they were reportedly severely beaten during interrogation by state judicial police. The two men were denied legal assistance and were not charged, but held by judicial order (arriago) for more than 50 days in a secure house run by the State Prosecutor's Office. Lawyers from a local human rights organization were denied access to the men for four days and when they were able to visit them were unable to talk in private or document the visible signs of their injuries. In June the two men were charged and remanded in Amate prison where they were tortured by other inmates, reportedly with the consent of prison authorities. No investigation into the two men's treatment was known to have been initiated by the end of the year.

On 4 May, José Gregorio Arnulfo Pacheco was repeatedly beaten and kicked by state police officers at his home in San Salvador Atenco. He was subsequently diagnosed with fractured ribs, a fractured trachea, cranial fissures and severe bruising. He was released from custody at the end of July after the judge recognized his physical incapacity to have committed the alleged offences. The outcome of the Public Prosecutor's Office appeal against his release was awaited at the end of the year.

Journalists and human rights defenders

Ten journalists were murdered and many others received threats, reportedly in reprisal for their work. Those investigating organized crime networks were at particular risk. Investigations conducted by a Special Federal Prosecutor failed to result in prosecutions of any of those responsible. There were continued reports of intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders in a number of states.

In September the National Supreme Court broadened an investigation into the misuse of the criminal justice system which led to the prosecution of journalist and women's rights defender Lydia Cacho on defamation charges in December 2005. The investigation was continuing at the end of the year.

In January Martín Barrios of the Labour Rights Commission of Tehuacán Valley (Comisión de Derechos Humanos y Laborales del Valle de Tehuacán) in Tehuacán, Puebla State, was released following national and international concern at his continued detention after unfounded blackmail charges against him were dropped. A month later, he and other members of the Labour Rights Commission were reportedly warned that their lives were at risk because of their human rights work.

Impunity for past abuses

As widely expected, the Special Federal Prosecutor's Office (FEMOSPP), established to secure justice for grave human rights violations committed during Mexico's "dirty war" (1960s-1980s), failed to deliver results. The military reportedly continued to show limited co-operation and the FEMOSPP did not challenge military jurisdiction, which has repeatedly assured impunity for military officials accused of serious human rights violations. Nevertheless, the Fox government stated that the work of the FEMOSPP was complete and ordered its closure in November.

In February, a draft report compiled by the historical truth unit of the FEMOSPP was leaked to an Internet website. It identified more than 700 cases of enforced disappearance, more than 100 extrajudicial executions and more than 2,000 cases of torture committed by the armed forces and security agencies during the "dirty war". In the final days of the administration, a weakened version of the report was officially circulated on the Internet, but the government failed to endorse it, publicize its findings or ensure victims and their relatives would have access to truth, justice or reparations.

In November, a federal court determined on appeal that the statute of limitations had not expired on the genocide charges faced by former President, Luis Echeverría, in connection with the 1968 Tlatelolco Square massacre.

In May, the prosecution of Miguel Nazar Haro, former head of the Federal Directorate of Security, and other former security officials accused of the 1976 enforced disappearance of Jesús Piedra Ibarra, was halted. In September, a judge ordered the end of Miguel Nazar Haro's house arrest as the other case against him for human rights violations committed during the 1970s collapsed.

Economic, social and cultural rights

The UN Committee on economic, social and cultural rights noted that, despite the government's efforts, 40 million people continued to live in poverty, particularly Indigenous communities and other socially disadvantaged groups.

Indigenous and peasant farming communities threatened with eviction by the proposed construction of the Parota dam in Guerrero State, despite a successful legal challenge freezing its construction, continued to face intimidation.

AI country reports/visits

Reports

Mexico: Human rights - an unavoidable duty for candidates (AI Index: AMR 41/019/2006)

Mexico: "How can a life be worth so little?" - Unlawful killings and impunity in the city of Reynosa (AI Index: AMR 41/027/2006)

Mexico: Violence against women and justice denied in Mexico State (AI Index: AMR 41/028/2006)

Visits

AI delegates visited Mexico in June and November.