Press Release

IACHR Wraps Up Visit to Mexico

September 30, 2011

Mexico City — The Office of the Rapporteur for Mexico of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) carried out a working visit to Mexico September 26-30, 2011. The delegation was made up of the IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico, Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil; the coordinator of the Mesoamerican Region, Isabel Madariaga; and human rights specialist Fiorella Melzi.

The delegation met with the President of the Republic, Felipe Calderón Meza; the President of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Juan Silva Meza, and Ministers Arturo Zaldívar, Lelo Larrea, and Sergio Salvador Aguirre Aguiano; the Attorney General of the Nation, Marisela Morales Ibáñez; the Secretary of the Interior, José Francisco Blake Mora; the Secretary of Public Security, Genaro García Luna; the President of the National Human Rights Commission, Raúl Plascencia Villanueva; the President of the Federal District Human Rights Commission, Luis González Plascencia; and the Deputy Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, along with their respective work teams.

The IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico welcomes the President's announced commitment that in what remains of his term he will give full compliance to decisions handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against Mexico (the cases of Campo Algodonero; Rosendo Radilla; Inés Fernández Ortega; Valentina Rosendo Cantú; and Cabrera García and Montiel Flores). The Rapporteur also welcomes the State's critical efforts to reach friendly settlements of cases being processed by the Commission. During the visit, six working meetings were held on cases and precautionary measures being processed by the Commission and one provisional measure being processed by the Court. Significant progress was made in these meetings.

Meetings were also held with nongovernmental human rights organizations and with the Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico, Javier Hernández Valencia.

The IACHR thanks the Mexican government for its cooperation in making this visit possible, and for the detailed information it provided on the challenges it faces and the efforts it has carried out in the area of human rights. In addition, the IACHR thanks the more than 30 civil society organizations that prepared a thorough, detailed analysis of the main human rights problems that affect the Mexican people and the challenges ahead for strengthening the protection of fundamental rights.

The IACHR Office of the Rapporteur calls attention to key legislative advances in the area of human rights in Mexico. First of all, it would like to reiterate the Commission's recognition of the constitutional human rights reform published on June 10, 2011, which gives constitutional status to the human rights recognized in international treaties ratified by Mexico—treaties that establish, among other things, the State's obligation to prevent, investigate, punish, and remedy human rights violations.

In addition, the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur for Mexico once again commends the July 12, 2011, decision of the Supreme Court of Justice, which adopted the guiding principle of restricting military jurisdiction in cases in which members of the armed forces commit human rights violations. This decision—which must be applied by all judges in the country—marks a step toward harmonizing domestic law with the repeated case law and jurisprudence of the inter-American human rights system on this subject, establishing that the military jurisdiction is an exception and should be applied only for crimes committed in the line of duty by members of the armed forces.

The IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico also welcomes the reform of the amparo [a type of petition for constitutional relief] published on June 6, 2011, which is noteworthy for, among other things, establishing the possibility of filing a writ of amparo in cases involving possible violations of rights guaranteed not only by law, but also by international treaties ratified by the State of Mexico.

The changes introduced based on the constitutional reform mark the beginning of a process of human rights reform that is unprecedented in recent Mexican history. In this regard, the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur commends the significant effort being carried out by the Supreme Court of Justice to train federal judges and magistrates so that their decisions can incorporate these important steps forward. We trust that this effort will be replicated on the state level.

Notwithstanding the progress that has been noted, the IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico expresses his deep concern over the serious human rights situation affecting the people of Mexico, mainly having to do with the situation of insecurity the country is experiencing. This comes on top of the problems the Commission has been following for decades, such as the situation of persons deprived of liberty; the existence of the practice of torture; shortcomings in due process; violence and discrimination against women; the social exclusion of indigenous peoples; the situation of girls and boys subject to child labor; the situation of people with mental disabilities who have been institutionalized; and the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex persons (LGBTI), among other issues.

According to information the Commission has received, from 2008 to 2010, criminal violence has increased by 50% each year. Statistics show that 34,612 individuals were murdered from December 2006 through December 2010, with 15,273 murders having occurred in 2010. When it comes to security, the State faces challenges related to the growing power of organized crime, which is reflected in the high rates of murders, kidnappings, extortions, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. Organized-crime groups have highly destructive weapons in their possession and reportedly have influence within some spheres of the State, both at the local and federal level.

The IACHR Rapporteur received information indicating that many of the cases of murder, kidnapping, extortion, disappearances, drug trafficking, and human smuggling attributed to organized crime apparently involved, in some cases, the participation of corrupt elements of the police and State agencies, which reportedly facilitated the commission of serious human rights violations, giving rise to impunity.

The Rapporteur notes with deep concern the information received indicating an increase in complaints related to acts of forced disappearance. According to records kept by the National Human Rights Commission, more than 5,000 people have been reported as disappeared, but this does not count the high number of cases of disappeared persons in which no complaint has been filed. In addition, the delegation received information on the lack of a quick and efficient response from the State to this situation, given that there are no effective mechanisms to search for the missing, no official investigations, and no programs to help victims. During the visit the delegation received testimony from one mother whose son had reportedly been the victim of a forced disappearance two years ago, in a case that remains in impunity. The IACHR Rapporteur urges the State to take any necessary steps and measures to act with due diligence to investigate these complaints, punish those responsible, and provide support to the victims.

In this context of violence, the Commission continues to be concerned over the high levels of violence against journalists and media workers in Mexico. In 2011, 13 members of the media have been killed for reasons that could be tied to the exercise of freedom of expression. In addition to the murders and disappearances, journalists and the media continue to face serious attacks, acts of aggression, and harassment. In parts of Mexico, journalists are subject to intense intimidation, coming primarily from criminal groups. This phenomenon creates self-censorship among many media outlets and limits investigative journalism. The Inter-American Commission once again urges the State of Mexico to strengthen the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE, for its Spanish acronym); transfer the investigation of crimes against media workers to the federal justice system, in cases in which this is warranted; and urgently implement any necessary security mechanisms to effectively safeguard the lives and well-being of journalists who have been threatened, as the IACHR recommended in its 2010 Special Report on Freedom of Expression in Mexico.

With regard to information about the militarization of citizen security, the Office of the Rapporteur was informed by the State that there are currently no military elements in the Federal Police. With respect to the participation of the Army and the Navy in citizen-security tasks, according to official sources, from 2006 to September 2011, 5,369 complaints had been lodged against members of the armed forces for human rights violations. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received 182 such complaints against the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) in 2006; 367 in 2007; 1,230 in 2008; and 1,800 in 2009. In 2010, the CNDH received 1,415 complaints against SEDENA.

The Inter-American Commission reiterates its concern over the participation of the armed forces in professional duties that, by their nature, correspond exclusively to police forces. On repeated occasions, the Commission has indicated that, given the fact that the armed forces lack the proper training to manage citizen security, the job of combating insecurity, crime, and violence on a domestic level belongs to a civilian police force, one that is efficient and that respects human rights.

In addition, the Commission reiterates its concern over the existence of a type of preventive detention (arraigo) contemplated in the Constitution of the United Mexican States, which empowers judges to order someone's detention for a period of 40 days—which can be extended to 80 days—without any formal charges. This type of preventive detention reportedly is being used at the federal level for cases involving organized crime and at the state level is being extended to other types of crime. The IACHR has received complaints having to do with the use of arraigo to hold individuals in private homes, hotels, and military facilities without respect for judicial guarantees, indicating that those being held in this manner have been subjected to torture for the purpose of obtaining confessions. In this regard, the Rapporteur commends the State of Chiapas for having repealed the concept of arraigo, and urges the State of Mexico to do away with it or adapt it to the guarantees of person freedom and due process established in international human rights standards.

The IACHR Office of the Rapporteur for Mexico expresses its concern for not having been able to carry out a visit to the Mexico City Center for Federal Investigations (formerly called the National Arraigo Center). The visit had been scheduled and was cancelled at the last minute by the authorities, who cited security reasons.

With respect to persons deprived of liberty, the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur received information from civil society and from State authorities indicating that, in general: the level of prison overcrowding and overpopulation is 22% nationally; there are insufficient resources to provide adequate food to those in custody; there is a shortage of medications, health supplies, and medical personnel, particularly of specialists in gynecology and in mental health; no separation exists between those who are being prosecuted and those who have been convicted; and effective rehabilitation programs need to be put in place. Moreover, serious corruption reportedly exists in prisons, which facilitates extortion and the trafficking of arms, drugs, and persons, among other crimes. Specifically, the Rapporteur was informed that there have been cases involving the trafficking of women inmates inside prison facilities in the Federal District. The Rapporteur calls on the authorities to promote comprehensive public policies on crime and the social reintegration of those who break the law.

On another matter, the Rapporteur for Mexico reiterates the deep concern expressed by the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families over the serious perils that migrants, both foreigners and Mexican nationals, face as they travel through Mexico. The information received shows that migrants face serious security problems. As they travel through Mexican territory, migrants fall victim to murder, disappearance, abduction, and rape. Foreign immigrants are also victims of discrimination. As has been stated, the passage of the new Immigration Law—if it is properly regulated and implemented—can be a first step toward resolving some of these problems; however, it will also create new challenges that will be resolved only through international coordination with other States, especially those that are geographically close to Mexico. The Office of the Rapporteur urges that the process of drafting regulations to that law include consultations with all sectors of the State, and especially with civil society organizations. In addition, the Rapporteur calls on the Mexican State to comply with all the preliminary recommendations issued by the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families, without prejudice to the specific recommendations the IACHR will determine in its final report on the matter.

With respect to the situation of human rights defenders, the IACHR again welcomes the fact that the Mexican government issued the "Agreement Establishing the Foundations for the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders," which entered into force on July 8, 2011. This constitutes an important step forward in coordinating the public authorities involved in the protection of human rights defenders. However, the IACHR observes with concern that in recent years the Commission has been able to identify that a significant portion of the obstacles faced by human rights defenders in their work seems to be related to: the attacks and threats to which human rights activists fall victim; the failure to investigate such acts and punish the perpetrators; and the fact that cases of criminalization of human rights defenders continue in some areas of the country. The IACHR reiterates the importance that the State guarantee security conditions for human rights defenders.

During the visit, meetings were also held on some cases involving Mexico. The Commission particularly welcomes the progress made by the parties in Case 12.610 (Faustino Jiménez Álvarez). In Case 11.565 (Beatriz González Pérez, Ana González Pérez, and Celia González Pérez), the Office of the Rapporteur urges the State of Mexico to comply with the recommendations issued by the Commission in 2001, particularly with respect to the transfer of the investigation from the military jurisdiction to the regular courts. In Case 12.116 (María Estela García Ramírez and Celerino Jiménez Almaraz), the Commission hopes that the parties will continue to move forward in the friendly settlement process. Meetings were also held on the following precautionary measures: No. 197-10 − 135 Inhabitants of San Juan Copala, and No. 264-10 − Residents of Santa María de la Ostula. The IACHR hopes that the parties will continue with an open dialogue with respect to the implementation of these measures. With respect to the precautionary and provisional measure in Alvarado Reyes et al., the Office of the Rapporteur urges the Mexican government to investigate, in the proper jurisdiction, the facts that are the subject of these measures and to immediately grant the beneficiaries the protection being requested.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 105/11