Mexico: Rushed approval of public security laws is putting human rights at risk

The Mexican Congress is preparing to approve a package of laws on public security that are contrary to international law and that would put at risk the human rights of the population and undermine the security strategy of the new government, Amnesty International said today.

“If Congress passes this legislation, the National Guard will become an all-powerful security force, without independent scrutiny and with dangerous powers, such as the authority to detain migrants and to use force against public demonstrations it does not deem to be legitimate,” said Tania Reneaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico.

On Tuesday, 21 May, the Mexican Senate approved four laws on security as part of a legislative arrangement to create a new National Guard supported by the federal government. Although the new laws contain some positive measures on human rights protection, they also include a series of challenges and serious flaws that could lead to an increase in abuses in a country that has been plagued for more than a decade by security crises and human rights violations.

If Congress passes this legislation, the National Guard will become an all-powerful security force, without independent scrutiny and with dangerous powers, such as the authority to detain migrants and to use force against public demonstrations it does not deem to be legitimate.
Tania Reneaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico

“Members of the Senate publicly stated that Amnesty International’s recommendations were incorporated into the drafts they were discussing and which had remained secret until now. However, there are flaws in the legislation that Amnesty International could have pointed out if the Senate had allowed the effective participation of civil society organizations,” said Tania Reneaum.

Amnesty International is concerned that several provisions included in the legislation are contrary to human rights law and standards. Among these are the absence of independent mechanisms to monitor the actions of the police and the National Guard and the lack of safeguards restricting the use of force during demonstrations. For example, the law would authorize the use of force against protests that do not have a “legitimate purpose” (“objeto licito”) and gives the security forces themselves, including the National Guard, the power to assess whether or not a protest is legitimate.

The presentation of the long-awaited law on the use of force has been overshadowed by contradictions in the text and technical errors that range from incorrect definitions of the use of force and types of weapons to insufficient preconditions for the authorization of the use of lethal force. The law has a dangerous list of types of conduct that would authorize the use of lethal force without higher oversight and without requiring that the decision take into account the circumstances of each case.

Amnesty International notes with concern that, while the legislation mentions the principles that should govern the use of force – namely, legality, absolute necessity, proportionality and accountability – their definition is not consistent with international standards and their application is problematic and contradictory as some articles of the law appear to set a lower level of protection of human rights.

We regret the haste and lack of transparency with which the Senate approved these laws, without making the drafts public, which prevented human rights defenders, civil society organizations, international human rights organizations and other experts from providing timely contributions.
Tania Reneaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico

The organization welcomes the creation of a register of detentions, which could be an important step in preventing arbitrary detentions and other human rights violations, such as torture and enforced disappearances. The organization will continue to monitor closely both its implementation and the creation, provided for in the same law, of a record of detentions of migrants, which must be in line with international standards for their protection.

“We regret the haste and lack of transparency with which the Senate approved these laws, without making the drafts public, which prevented human rights defenders, civil society organizations, international human rights organizations and other experts from providing timely contributions. This is an error that the Chamber of Deputies can rectify to ensure the greatest protection for human rights and, to that end, Amnesty International is willing to provide technical input to the legislative process,” said Tania Reneaum.

The laws approved by the Senate are the Law on the National Guard, the National Law on the Use of Force, the National Law on the Register of Detentions and amendments to the General Law on the National Public Security System. These laws must be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies before final approval. Amnesty International urges members of the Chamber of Deputies to adopt the necessary amendments so that these laws are in line with international human rights law.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact  

Duncan Tucker (Ammesty International Americas): duncan.tucker@amnesty.org

Alejandro Juárez (Amnesty International Mexico): prensa@amnistia.org.mx