Monday, May 26, 2014

Human Rights and Mexico Revisited

Across the southern border of Texas, between 700,000 and 1 million U.S. citizens lived in Mexico and around 20 million U.S. tourists visited Mexico in 2012. In addition, the value of U.S.-based transnational corporations’ direct investment in Mexico’s economy exceeded $101 billion in 2012.

Yet according to a 2014 Human Rights Watch [HRW] report, Mexico is apparently still a country where the human rights of Mexican citizens have been violated in recent years. As the 2014 HRW report on Mexico observed:

“Upon taking office in December 2012, [Mexican] President Enrique Peña Nieto acknowledged that the `war on drugs’ launched by predecessor Felipe Calderón had led to serious abuses by the security forces. In early 2013, the administration said that more than 26,000 people had been reported disappeared or missing since 2007…

“Yet the government has made little progress in prosecuting widespread killings, enforced disappearances, and torture committed by soldiers and police in the course of efforts to combat organized crime, including during Peña Nieto’s tenure….

“…Members of all security force branches continue to carry out disappearances during the Peña Nieto administration, in some cases collaborating directly with criminal groups. In June 2013, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said it was investigating 2,443 disappearances in which it had found evidence of the involvement of state agents.

“…Families of the disappeared may lose access to basic social services that are tied to the victim’s employment, such as child care…

“Mexico has relied heavily on the military to fight drug-related violence and organized crime, leading to widespread human rights violations. From December 2006 to mid-September 2013, the CNDH received 8,150 complaints of abuse by the army, and issued reports on 116 cases in which it found that army personnel had committed serious human rights violations.

“The soldiers who commit these abuses are virtually never brought to justice, largely because such cases continue to be investigated and prosecuted in the military justice system, which lacks independence and transparency…

“Torture is widely practiced in Mexico to obtain forced confessions and extract information. It is most frequently applied in the period between when victims are arbitrarily detained and when they are handed to prosecutors, when they are often held incommunicado at military bases or other illegal detention sites. Common tactics include beatings, waterboarding, electric shocks, and sexual torture. Many judges continue to accept confessions obtained through torture, despite the constitutional prohibition of such evidence.

“…Between January and September 2013, the National Human Rights Commission received more than 860 complaints of torture or cruel or inhuman treatment by federal officials…

“Prisons are overpopulated, unhygienic, and fail to provide basic security for most inmates. Prisoners who accuse guards or inmates of attacks or other abuses have no effective system to seek redress.

“Approximately 65 percent of prisons are controlled by organized crime, and corruption and violence are rampant, according to the CNDH. Some 108 inmates had died in 2013, as of November….

“…At least 85 journalists were killed between 2000 and August 2013, and 20 more were disappeared between 2005 and April 2013, according to the CNDH….

“Mexican laws do not adequately protect women and girls against domestic violence and sexual violence. Some provisions, including those that make the severity of punishments for some sexual offenses contingent on the `chastity’ of the victim, contradict international standards. Women and girls who have suffered these types of human rights violations generally do not report them to authorities, while those who do generally face suspicion, apathy, and disrespect….

“Hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants pass through Mexico each year and many are subjected to grave abuses en route—such as disappearances and sexual violence—at the hands of organized crime, migration authorities, and security forces. Authorities have not taken adequate steps to protect migrants, or to investigate and prosecute those who abuse them…The staff of migrant shelters face threats and harassment from criminal groups and officials, yet the government has failed to implement protective measures granted to these centers by national and international human rights bodies. At least three migrant centers were forced to close or saw staff forced to flee in 2013…

“…Independent unions are often blocked from entering negotiations with management, while workers who seek to form independent unions risk losing their jobs...Human rights defenders and activists continue to suffer harassment and attacks…In many cases, there is evidence—including witness testimony or traced cell phones—that state agents are involved in aggressions against human rights defenders…

“The United States has allocated over US$2 billion in aid to Mexico through the Merida Initiative, an aid package agreed upon in 2007 without a year cap, to help Mexico combat organized crime. Fifteen percent of select portions of the assistance can be disbursed only after the US secretary of state reports that the Mexican government is meeting human rights requirements.

“However, the impact of these requirements has been undermined by the fact the US State Department has repeatedly reported to the US Congress that they are being met, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, often citing vague and incomplete progress towards meeting the requirements, leading Congress to release the funds.

“The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions conducted a fact-finding mission to Mexico in April-May 2013, and stated that extrajudicial executions by security forces were widespread and often occurred without accountability…”

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