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1999 | 51st Regular Session of the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights (03 - 28 August 1999)

Torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Mexico

August 3 – 28, 1999
Palais des Nations, Geneva

Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace remain gravely concerned about the situation of human rights in Mexico. The adoption last year of resolution 1998/4 on Mexico by the 50th Session of the Sub-Commission raised expectations for real change in the situation. The wide press coverage of the resolution both nationally and internationally had the effect of creating a temporary slowdown in violations. The news that the Sub-Commission adopted a resolution was very positively received by human rights activists in Mexico and created a political space for NGOs to continue their work for human rights. There is a consensus among national and international NGOs that the resolution had a powerful impact and supported the work of human rights defenders. However, once the outcry died down, the violations continued as in the past and the government returned to its usual stance of assuring the international community that all was well and under control in the country.

This was illustrated recently in the government of Mexico’s response to the serious allegations and questions which were raised in July 1999 when the Human Rights Committee studied the Mexico report under the Civil and Political Rights Covenant. In its findings on the report of Mexico, the Committee expressed concern that alleged acts of torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions had not been investigated; that the persons responsible had not been brought to justice; and that the victims or their families had not received compensation. The Committee also cited concern over increased activity by the armed forces in society, particularly in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, where they carried out the activities of police forces. In addition, the Committee said that it was deeply concerned by the fact that no institutionalized procedures existed for investigations of violations of human rights presumed to have been committed by members of the armed forces. The government responded to the allegations and questions in general terms only assuring the Committee that change had taken place.

Following his 1997 visit to Mexico and his 1998 report, the Special Rapporteur on Torture still noted in his 1999 report to the UN Commission on Human Rights that he had received information according to which prisoners had been subjected to torture and to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Mexico City.

In her July 1999 visit to Mexico, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Ms. Asma Jahangir, stated publicly that the injustice and selective impunity that caused the massive killings in Agua Blancas, Acteal, El Bosque and El Charco are rooted in the on-going political problems and in the failures of the judicial system of Mexico. Additionally, she said that the marginalized people continue to be exploited in the situation of armed conflict in Chiapas where the interests of the political powers are very high. One of her recommendations was that in every society with diverse languages and cultures such as Mexico, it is necessary that local governments respect human rights.

In another area of concern, the February 1998 report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women recommended that “the government of Mexico pay special attention to safeguarding the human rights of women, including indigenous women and women in conflict zones, especially where police and armed forces are operating”.

Reports indicate that the situation for women in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca has not improved. Reports of the rape of indigenous women are still being received from NGOs working in the regions. For example, on April 21, 1999, two indigenous women were raped by members of the Mexican Army in the community of Barrio Nuevo San José in the State of Guerrero. Also, three members of this community were killed by the army in the same month.

A comparative study of arbitrary executions between June 1997 and May 1999 also indicates that the number of killings in which the army has participated directly has increased from 3 in the first twelve month period to 28 in the second period.

Moreover, statistics provided by the government are misleading. They manipulate them by recategorizing human rights violations such as torture and summary executions as abuses of authority and wounding.

In adopting a resolution on Mexico, the 1998 Sub-Commission was responding to the serious allegations of human rights violations in that country. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that the situation of human rights is constantly worsening. Also, the government has not implemented many of the recommendations made by Special Rapporteurs and other UN bodies. Further, there is an acceleration of militarization in the country, especially with the permanent installation of army barracks and apartments in the regions where indigenous peoples are living.

Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace therefore strongly recommend that the Sub-commission continue consideration of the human rights situation in Mexico and adopt a resolution recommending effective action for adoption by the UN Commission on Human Rights at its next Session.

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