Amnesty International does. It looks like Human Rights Watch does too. So do countless family members of those who have been “disappeared”, arbitrarily detained, tortured, or well, all of the above. The new report just released from AI includes some emblematic cases of human rights violations committed by the Mexican military….just in the past year. Keep in mind this report is in by no means exhaustive either. Many other NGOs have been documenting these types of cases for years, and it doesn’t look like things are getting better.
The Calderon Administration does have a tough job to do. Between combating the organized crime and drug cartels that have left some cities in a state of almost lawlessness, to working through the economic hardships that any current administration has felt, to dealing with high profile US/Mexico border issues… it’s a difficult task. Human rights have no borders though, so why has it been such a struggle to put human rights at the core of any and all governmental initiatives?
The National Human Rights Commission (of Mexico) received nearly 2,000 complaints of abuse by the military between January 2008 and June 2009. By comparison, there were 367 complaints in 2007 and 182 in 2006. An improvement? You tell me.
Kerrie Howard, Deputy Director of the AI Americas Program in London stated: “The cases that we have been able to investigate are truly shocking, but what is more shocking is that we know that this is only the tip of the iceberg.”
So if you want to do something about this, take action here.
Amnesty International today urged the US Congress to honor its commitment to withhold 15% of funding of the Merida Initiative until the Mexican government fulfils its human rights obligations. The Mexican government has failed to make sufficient progress in the investigation and prosecution of human rights abuses by security forces. According to the Washington Post, Senator Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, is well aware of the grave human rights situation in Mexico, and does not intend to allow the transfer to go forward if things do not improve.
The Merida Initiative is security co-operation and assistance program through which the USA provides Mexico and Central America with equipment, training and technical assistance to support law enforcement operations. In June 2008, the US Congress stipulated that 15% of the funds to be provided by the US to Mexico in the context of the Merida Initiative must be subject to key human rights conditions, including:
- Human rights violations perpetrated by military and police personnel to be investigated, prosecuted and tried by civilian prosecutors and judges;
- Confessions obtained under torture or ill treatment not to be used in the justice system;
- Civil society to be regularly consulted to make recommendations regarding the fulfilment of the Merida Initiative;
- Improvement of transparency and accountability of the police force, and establishment of an independent mechanism to denounce abuses.
In addition to a State Department report on the broader human rights situation in Mexico, the US Congress also requested information on the investigation of the killing of US videojournalist Brad Will, whose case Amnesty has worked on for some time. The investigation of Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) led to the arrest of man in October 2008. However, the evidence on which the prosecution is based has been disproved by extensive forensic studies carried out by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and Physicians for Human Rights. As the time for the approval of Merida Initiative funding approached, the PGR commissioned a team of Canadian experts to carry out a new forensic report. The report, which has no legal standing in the criminal case, was leaked in July 2009 to the press and confirmed, in an almost word-by-word fashion the conclusions of the PGR. Both the CNDH and Physicians for Human Rights have stated that the report has no scientific validity, and Brad Will’s family has issued a statement denouncing the biased PGR investigation.
Given the situation of Brad Will’s case, the continued impunity of those responsible for other serious human rights violations, and the alarming escalation of reports of new abuses, additional US aid would only make things worse. Let’s hope Mexico takes notice and makes some big changes.