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1999 | 55th Regular Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (22 March - 30 April 1999)

The human rights situation in Mexico

March 22 – April 28, 1999
Palais des Nations, Geneva

The human rights situation in Mexico continues to deteriorate. Different United Nations’ bodies specialized in the protection of human rights , as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States , have confirmed this worrisome trend. Mexico occupies first place for reports of deaths during detention received by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and third place for cases of disappearances presented before the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, according to their most recent reports. Similarly, the 1998 report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stated that the practice of illegal detention in Mexico constitutes a serious situation of human rights violations due to its systematic character. Likewise, the Committee Against Torture concluded in 1997, that torture is systematically practiced in Mexico, especially by judicial police, and more recently, by members of the Armed Forces under the pretext of combating subversive groups and drug-trafficking. The Special Rapporteur on Torture confirmed that torture is frequent throughout much of the country.

The Sub Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities requested in Resolution 1998/4, submitted in its 50th Session, that the Mexican Government give top priority « to combating the impunity of perpetrators of serious human rights violations, especially those suffered by numerous members of the indigenous populations » and « promoting the action of human rights defenders and guaranteeing their safety. »

The lack of political will on the part of the Mexican Government to put an end to these grave human rights violations (the right to life, the right to personal liberty and integrity, as well as to legal guarantees and protections), the ineffectiveness and partiality of the institutions responsible for law enforcement and the administration of justice; the increased activity of the Armed Forces in civilian life; the increasing tendency for police bodies to be directed by military officers and the Army’s direct participation in public security matters, anti-narcotics operations and the counter-insurgency fight; as well as the impunity enjoyed by paramilitary groups, affects the entire population, especially the most vulnerable sectors (indigenous people, women, and children) throughout the country and in particular in Guerrero, Chiapas and Oaxaca.

The lack of independence of the judiciary worsens the situation of human rights in Mexico. The IACHR pointed out that the very constitutional structure of the courts calls into question the degree of real independence that these bodies have from the Executive, and that the relationship between illegal detention and violations of personal integrity and judicial guarantees is not coincidental, but reflects the dependence that arises in many cases between administrative and judicial authorities. The failures of the judicial system reflect a general undermining of the rule of law. Norms are applied with discretion, to the benefit of certain power groups, and there are grave irregularities in legal procedures.

Law enforcement and judicial institutions are commonly used to resolve political conflicts. This is the case in the operations to dismantle autonomous municipalities in the state of Chiapas, where under the pretext of « re-establishing the rule of law » hundreds of illegal detentions and searches have been carried out. This demonstrates the misuse of power that the Mexican Government has employed , under the pretext of disbanding insurgent groups, to silence and prevent peaceful resistance to State policies.

A further concern is the growing militarization occurring in Mexico in recent years which has brought with it innumerable human rights violations by soldiers who, as stated by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, enjoy impunity from civil justice and are, in general, protected by the military justice system. This militarization has particularly affected regions which are predominantly indigenous. In this regard, the IACHR stated that the emergence of new dissident armed groups has led not only to a resumption of measures of control by the security forces, but also to the indiscriminate repression of social organizations and leaders. The High Commissioner on Human Rights has also expressed her concern regarding this situation.

Paramilitary activity in Chiapas is extremely grave and has, since 1995, provoked a high number of deaths. During 1998, despite alleged investigations to disarm these groups, they continued to operate with impunity. This lack of justice is repeated in other states such as Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Veracruz where armed groups are known to exist. In 1997, the Committee Against Racial Discrimination highlighted the fact that acts of violence or intimidation perpetrated by paramilitary groups, representatives of security forces, or landowners have frequently remained impugn. This situation has generated the forced displacement of entire indigenous communities. According to unofficial figures, there are more than 16 thousand internally displaced persons in Chiapas who live in inhumane conditions and whose personal security is vulnerable to aggressions, such as those massacred at Acteal, municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas on December 22, 1997.

Human rights defenders and journalists have suffered increasing levels of harassment, violence, threats, and intimidation which led the IACHR, as well as the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, to express their concern. Furthermore, the Mexican Government is increasingly resistant to international human rights observation. Since November 1997, over 100 international observers have been forced to abandon the country. Furthermore, a policy of accreditation and admission for international observation missions has been implemented which depends on the discretion of immigration functionaries to grant permission to enter the country for purposes of human rights observation and humanitarian aid distribution.

While the establishment of the official human rights protection system is positive, it has been incapable of curbing human rights abuses as it does not enjoy true independence from the Executive. Its investigation methods do not adhere to the standards imposed by international systems, compliance with its recommendations is left to the discretion of authorities and, as pointed out by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, it demonstrates an inexplicable disposition to consider said recommendations complete when in practice they have only been partially applied.

In 1993, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights expressed its concern for the high number of persons living in extreme poverty and the growing disparity of salaries for Mexican workers. According to official figures, since this date, the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased from 17 million to 26 million; likewise, the real minimum wage has declined to the level it held in 1940. This situation is particularly grave regarding indigenous peoples, as compared to the rest of the population, who in many areas live in deplorable conditions of poverty and lack access to social services and health care. Equally, as the IACHR has stated, despite the fact that indigenous municipalities account for one-third of all municipalities in the country, they represent 48 percent of areas registering « high poverty » and 82 percent of those registering « very high poverty ».

Due to the above, we request that the Commission on Human Rights:

  • Urge the Mexican Government to adopt measures against grave human rights violations and the perpetrators of these abuses. In this regard, reforms to law enforcement and judicial bodies are indispensable in order to guarantee access for all individuals.
  • Recommend that the Mexican Government strengthen the public human rights protection system, guaranteeing real autonomy for the national and state human rights commissions and the necessary resources and authority to carry out investigations; this would ensure thorough, impartial, and efficient investigations of all complaints and reports of violations by a body independent from those believed to be responsible.
  • Urge the Mexican Government to realize a visit by the High Commissioner on Human Rights as soon as possible so that she may analyze the situation based on on-site observation, including meetings with the public commissions and non-governmental human rights organizations.
  • Examine the situation of human rights in Mexico, taking into account information from various bodies of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, especially Resolution 1998/4 of the Sub Commission which states that if the Commission does not address the issue, the Sub Commission will continue to examine developments of the situation in its 51st Session.
  • Urge the Mexican Government to invite the Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; as well as the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Disappearances, and name a Special Rapporteur for Mexico, responsible for monitoring the general situation of human rights in the country.

Signing Organisations
The networks

  1. Convergencia de Organismos Civiles por la Democracia.
  2. Foro de Organismos Civiles de Oaxaca (FOCO).
  3. Movimiento Ciudadano por la Democracia (MCD).
  4. Red Mexicana de Acción Frente el Libre Comercio (RMALC).
  5. Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos « Todos los Derechos para Todos »:

The Mexican organizations

1. Academia Jalisciense de Derechos Humanos, A.C. (AJDH) Jalisco.
2. Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura (ACAT), D.F.
3. Alianza Civica.
4. Asamblea Nacional Indígena Plural por la Autonomía (ANIPA).
5. Asociación Civil para la Defensa de los Derechos Ciudadanos « Miguel Hidalgo », A.C. Hidalgo.
6. Asociación de Familiares de Desaparecidos y Víctimas de Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos en México AFADEM (FEDEFAM-México).
7. Asociación Jalisciense de Apoyo a los Grupos Indígenas (AJAGI) Jalisco.
8. Brigadas Pro Derechos Humanos-Observadores por la Paz.
9. Casa y Ciudad, A.C.
10. Casa del Pueblo, Tlalpan, D.F.
11. Ce-Acatl, A.C.
12. Centro de Apoyo al Movimiento Popular Oaxaqueño (CAMPO).
13. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña (Tlachinollan, AC.) Guerrero.
14. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Los Príncipes », Oaxaca.
15. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas », A.C. Chiapas.
16. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P. », A.C., D.F.
17. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Miguel Agustín Pro », A.C. (PRODH), D.F.
18. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Tepeyac », Oaxaca.
19. Centro de Derechos Indígenas (CEDIAC), Chiapas.
20. Centro de Derechos Indígenas « Flor y Canto », A.C., Oaxaca.
21. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Fray Matías de Córdoba », Chiapas.
22. Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos « Bartolomé Carrasco », A.C.
23. Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C., Tamaulipas.
24. Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano.
25. Centro de Estudios Sociales y Culturales Antonio Montesinos.
26. Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS).
27. Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, A.C., Guerrero.
28. Centro Potosino de Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CEPODHAC), San Luis Potosí.
29. Ciudadanía Lagunera por los Derechos Humanos, A.C., Coahuila.
30. Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CADHAC), Nuevo León.
31. Colectivo Mexicano de Apoyo a la Niñez (COMEXANI).
32. Colectivo de Mujeres Campesinas de la Costa Grande de Guerrero (COMUCAM).
33. Colectivo Oaxaca por la Paz.
34. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Asamblea de Barrios, D.F.
35. Comisión de Derechos Humanos « La Voz de los sin voz », Guerrero.
36. Comisión de Solidaridad y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, A.C.
(COSYDDHAC), Chihuahua.
37. Comisión Independiente de Derechos Humanos de Morelos, A.C., Morelos.
38. Comisión Intercongregacional « Justicia, Paz y Vida », D.F.
39. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C., D.F.
40. Comisión para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, A.C., Veracruz.
41. Comisión Regional de Derechos Humanos « Mahatma Gandhi », Oaxaca.
42. Comité de Artes, Oficios y Ecologia.
43. Comité de Defensa y Apoyo a Comunidades y Pueblos Indios (CODACPI), Guerrero.
44. Comité de Defensa de las Libertades Indígenas (CDLI), Chiapas.
45. Comité de Derechos Humanos Ajusco, D.F.
46. Centro de Derechos Humanos « Don Sergio », A.C., Morelos.
47. Comité de Derechos Humanos « Fr. Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada, O.P. », Chiapas.
48. Comité de Derechos Humanos de Colima (No gubernamental), Colima.
49. Comité de Derechos Humanos y Orientación Miguel Hidalgo, A.C.
(CODHOMHAC), Guanajuato.
50. Comité de Derechos Humanos Pueblo Nuevo, A.C., D.F.
51. Comité de Derechos Humanos de Tabasco, A.C. (CODEHUTAB), Tabasco.
52. Comité de Derechos Humanos de la Sierra Norte de Veracruz, AC., Veracruz.
53. Comité Emiliano Zapata de San Nicolas de Totoloapan.
54. Comité Sergio Méndez Arceo Pro Derechos Humanos de Tulancingo, Hidalgo, A.C.
55. Congreso Nacional Indígena (CNI).
56. CNI Tarahumara-Chihuahua.
57. Consejo Indígena Popular Oaxaqueño « Ricardo Flores Magón ».
58. Consejo Supremo Nahuatl de Texcoco.
59. Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas.
60. Coordinadora Nacional de Pueblos Indios.
61. Deca Equipo Pueblo, A.C.
62. Defensoras Populares, A.C. (DPAC)
63. Defensoria del Derecho a la Salud
64. Desarrollo Social y Económico de los Mexicanos Indígenas, A.C.
65. Espacio Autónomo, A.C.
66. Foro Maya Peninsular.
67. Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT).
68. Frente Cívico Sinaloense, Secretaría de Derechos Humanos, Sinaloa.
69. Frente por el Derecho a Alimentarse, A.C.
70. Frente Regional Popular del Sureste de Veracruz.
71. Grupo Indignación, AC, Yucatán.
72. Instituto Guerrerense de Derechos Humanos, A.C., Guerrero.
73. Instituto Mexicano para el Desarrollo Comunitario, A.C. (IMDEC), Area de Derechos Humanos, Jalisco.
74. K´inal Ansetik.
75. Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humano (LIMEDDH-FIDH).
76. Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, Oaxaca.
77. Mujeres en Acción Solidaria (MUSAS), Tabasco
78. Praxis.
79. Programa Universitario de Derechos Humanos del ITESO, Jalisco.
80. Programa Universitario de Derechos Humanos. UIA-León, Guanajuato.
81. Promotores de Derechos Humanos del STUNAM.
82. Servicios del Pueblo Mixe.
83. Servicios para una Educación Alternativa, A. C. (EDUCA).
84. Servicio Paz y Justicia- México (SERPAJ).
85. Taller Universitario de Derechos Humanos (TUDH), D.F.
86. Unión Campesina Obrero Popular Independiente-Irapuato.
87. Unión de Comuneros Emiliano Zapata, Michoacán-Guanajuato.
88. Unión de Comunidades Indígenas Nahuas de Jalisco.
89. Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (UCIZONI).
90. Xi’ Nich, Chiapas.

The international organizations

  • Ascur- Las segovias
  • Agir Ensemble pour les droits de l’Homme
  • CCFD
  • Cenrtal misionera de los Fransiscanos, Bonn.
  • Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
  • Centro Nacional de Cooperación al Desarrollo, Belgique
  • DKA – Austria
  • Federación De Asociaciones De Defensa Y Promoción De Derechos Humanos
  • Federación Internacional de Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura (FIACAT)
  • International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
  • France Libertés – Fondation Danièle Mitterrand
  • Fransciscans International and the Dominicans
  • Humanitarian Law Project-International Educational Development
  • Instituto de estudios políticos para América Latina y Africa (IEPALA)
  • Novib – the Netherlands Organisation for International Development
  • Pax Christi Germany
  • Pax Christi International
  • Paz y tercer mundo-Espagne
  • OMCT
  • One World Action
  • Oxfam GB
  • Terre des Hommes France
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