UN: Mexico must address dire human rights situation with concrete actions not rhetoric

Mexico must put into action the promises it makes to the United Nations Human Rights Council tomorrow if it is to address the dire human rights situation in the country, Amnesty International said today.

“Effective long-lasting measures have to be taken to address ongoing patterns of disappearances, torture, arbitrary detentions as well as routine attacks on men and women defending human rights, journalists and migrants. Mexico must not fail again to uphold its commitments to the international community,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Tomorrow Mexico will announce to Human Rights Council members which of their 176 recommendations it will adopt. In 2009, during its last appearance before this human rights body, Mexico said it would implement the majority of recommendations. However, it then failed to take action in many areas to prevent the human rights crisis, which continues to this day.

Although it is positive that the Mexican government has announced that it will accept most of the recommendations, there are worrying signs that this could just be ‘business as usual’ and its compliance will only be rhetorical.

Recommendations to abolish arraigo detention, a major human rights issue, have not been accepted. Under this extended form of pre-charge detention a suspect can be held for up to 80 days without being brought before a judge.

“Arraigo detentions open the door to multiple human rights violations, including torture and forced confessions leading to unfair trials. The refusal to abolish arraigo is a deeply negative signal about the government’s real commitment to uphold the human rights of all,” said Salil Shetty.

The reform of the Code of Military Justice is another major issue. Mexico has accepted recommendations to ensure all allegations of human rights violations committed by members of the Armed Forces are investigated, prosecuted and tried in the civilian justice system.

This week the Senate is considering a reform potentially excluding human rights violations committed by military against civilians from military courts: However, it will not apply to human rights violations committed by the military against other military personnel.

The proposal is a move in the right direction, but it still falls short of full compliance with international human rights standards, despite the government’s claims to the contrary.

“We detect a worrying complacency in Mexico’s attitude to the Council. It asserts that ongoing legislative and administrative measures amount to compliance with many UN recommendations, but it risks not addressing the actual critical human rights issues the country is facing,” said Salil Shetty.

“This attitude ignores the plight of those bearing the brunt of human rights violations. The day-to-day experience of families of the disappeared, victims of torture, killings and violence, has not changed. To them the promises of the government seem empty and ineffective – impunity reigns.”

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Mexican government to urgently implement UN Human Rights Council recommendations to tackle widespread human rights violations and impunity. This includes:

• Guaranteeing the protection of international human rights norms in all policing and security operations, including prompt, full and impartial investigation of all human rights violations;

• Adopting concrete and effective measures to prevent and punish torture and ill-treatment;

• Strengthening measures to investigate abductions and enforced disappearances, including procedures to locate victims and hold perpetrators to account;

• Strengthening  comprehensive protection mechanisms for human rights defenders and journalists in order to stop attacks on them and ensure those responsible for attacks are brought to justice;

• Implementing effective measures to prevent and punish all forms of violence against women;

• Strengthening measures to protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights by ending criminalization of abortion and ensuring women and girls have access to safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest and where the woman or girl’s health is at risk.

• Ensuring that resource extraction and economic development projects affecting Indigenous peoples are carried only after obtaining their free, prior and informed consent;

• Preventing and punishing abuses against migrants in transit, whether committed by criminal gangs or public officials.

“It is vital that the government works with civil society to implement concrete and effective measures to tackle the critical human rights situation in Mexico. The government must commit financial resources and high-level political support at every level of the federal state,” said Salil Shetty.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General recently met the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other Mexican high level public officials, including ministers, representatives of judiciary and the legislature during a high level mission to Mexico from 15 to 19 February. 

Salil Shetty delivered the President a memorandum demanding an urgent list of actions to combat entrenched impunity and serious human rights violations.