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Amnesty International slams government over human rights abuses

June 18, 2012

President Felipe Calderon has much work to do during his final six months in office if he wants to leave Mexico with a more favorable human rights record, following strong criticism from Amnesty International (AI) in its annual country-by-country report.

The 2011 report highlighted Mexico’s deeply problematic justice system; the many abuses committed with impunity by the military and the police; the widespread discrimination against indigenous people; high levels of violence against women and migrants; and the lack of adequate protection for journalists and human rights observers.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in response, affirming that “the federal government is fully committed to promoting and protecting human rights.”

The government sought to use the nation’s drug cartels as a scapegoat, affirming that it “recognizes the impact on Mexican society of transnational organized crime, which is why it is doing everything in its power to dismantle these groups.” The government claimed that in the fight against organized crime its “response has been focused on expanding human rights.”

The AI report accepted that “there were a number of progressive constitutional human rights reforms” passed in 2011, but also found that “the government did not take effective measures to prevent or investigate widespread grave human rights violations committed by the military and police, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and arbitrary arrests.” Furthermore, “the government … continued to assert that abuses were exceptional and perpetrators were held to account.”

AI said a large part of the problem was that “the military justice system remained in control of virtually all investigations into allegations of human rights abuses by military personnel, and continued to dismiss without effective investigation the vast majority of complaints, allowing perpetrators to evade justice.”

AI found that the criminal justice system also “failed to deliver justice or security,” with fair trial standards breached by a number of factors, “including arbitrary detention, torture, fabrication of evidence, denial of due process, denial of access to an effective defence, and inadequate judicial supervision of proceedings.”

Significant improvement does not appear to be forthcoming. AI described progress in reforming Mexico’s police forces and its criminal justice system as “extremely slow.”

Among other major problems, “at least nine journalists were killed and scores of others attacked and intimidated … More than 20 human rights defenders were threatened or attacked in 2011 … Violence against women remained widespread,” and “tens of thousands of mainly Central American irregular migrants traveling to the USA were at risk of kidnapping, rape, forced recruitment or being killed by criminal gangs, often operating in collusion of public officials.”

In its defense, the Mexican government cited new legislation to protect women, migrants and journalists, but AI found that despite this, “impunity remained the norm for most of these crimes,” with “those responsible were almost never held to account.”

Finally, AI noted that “Indigenous Peoples continued to suffer routine discrimination and systemic inequality, in relation to the right to land, housing, water, health and education. Economic and development projects on Indigenous lands continued to be undertaken without the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities.”

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