President Fox's government maintained that it was committed to the implementation of international human rights treaties and standards. Nevertheless, domestically there was little advance in ending human rights violations and impunity, particularly at state level. A National Human Rights Programme was initiated but appeared to have little impact. Proposed reforms to the Constitution and criminal justice system did not progress. Presidential and congressional elections scheduled for 2006 increasingly dominated the political agenda, as did concerns over public security and violent crime. There were continuing reports of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture. The number of young women murdered in Ciudad Juárez rose again and the response to violence against women remained inadequate. The judicial system continued to be a key source of human rights violations, failing to protect the rights of victims of crime and suspects. Its failings had a disproportionate impact on the poorest and most disadvantaged sectors of society. A number of journalists were killed or threatened. Human rights defenders working in local communities faced threats and attacks. Efforts to hold those responsible for past human rights violations accountable failed. Many members of the most socially excluded communities, particularly indigenous peoples, continued to suffer discrimination and limited access to economic, social and cultural rights.
Mexico ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and resisted pressure to sign an unlawful bilateral immunity agreement with the USA. It also ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and submitted a number of overdue reports to UN thematic mechanisms. The government also played a positive role in promoting UN reform to strengthen human rights protection.
In April the Attorney General of the Republic resigned amid increasing political pressure in the wake of Congress' decision to allow the prosecution of the Mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The indictment of Andrés López Obrador, the presidential candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) would have led to his disqualification from the presidential elections. The prosecution, which was abandoned in May, had been widely perceived as politically motivated.
According to reports, at least 440 undocumented migrants died while trying to cross the border into the USA. The USA proposed that a border wall be constructed. This raised concerns that more migrants would attempt to cross in the most dangerous desert regions, resulting in increased fatalities.
Congress amended the Constitution and the Military Penal Code, abolishing the death penalty for all crimes. Important reforms were also initiated regarding juvenile justice. However, Congress failed to agree other major human rights reforms.
In response to the failure to secure changes at federal level, some states proposed changes to their local justice systems, but by the end of the year it was unclear what the effects of these initiatives were.
No action was taken to limit the application of military justice to ensure that military personnel accused of committing human rights violations are investigated and tried in the civil judicial system.
A National Human Rights Programme was initiated. However, it did not receive new resources and lacked an effective national plan. An evaluation committee was established in November involving some human rights organizations.
A new representative was assigned to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico City. Despite a number of valuable projects, there were few advances in the implementation of recommendations proposed by the UN Office.
Little progress was made in bringing to justice those responsible for grave human rights violations committed during the "dirty war" in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Despite four years of work, only seven arrest warrants against former state officials were executed. In the hundreds of other cases, either the Special Prosecutor did not file charges, or charges were rejected by the courts.
In July, in breach of international law, the Supreme Court ruled that genocide committed before 2001 was bound by the statute of limitations. This led to the collapse of the prosecution of nine people for the murder of students in a 1971 protest known as "Corpus Cristi".
The prosecution of former head of state Luis Echeverría and former interior minister Mario Moya, for genocide in relation to the same case, also collapsed when a federal judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to file charges. In September a judge also rejected charges, including genocide, against the former president and seven others in relation to the murder of students in demonstrations in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, in 1968. At the end of the year, a ruling by the Supreme Court was awaited on the appeal against this decision filed by the Special Prosecutor.
Violence against women
Women and young girls, particularly from the poorest sectors of society, continued to suffer discrimination and violence in the home and community. Official statistics indicated that nearly half of all women over the age of 15 had suffered some form of violence during the previous year. Efforts by the authorities to prevent and punish such crimes were frequently inadequate, despite increasing public awareness of the problem. The Supreme Court ruled that marital rape was a crime.
The pattern of killings of women and girls in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, continued with at least 28 murders. Although the state authorities appeared to be more committed to tackling the crimes, officials responsible for failings in the original investigations were not held to account and there was little progress in bringing to justice those responsible for past abductions and murders both in Ciudad Juárez and the city of Chihuahua. The Special Federal Prosecutor's Office in Ciudad Juárez failed to guarantee accountability and the post remained vacant at the end of the year. The Commission for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women in Ciudad Juárez and the National Human Rights Commission both issued reports containing serious criticisms of federal and state efforts to secure justice for the women of Ciudad Juárez.
- Seven-year-old Airis Estrella Enríquez Pando and 10-year-old Anahí Orozco Lorenzo were brutally murdered in Ciudad Juárez in May. Separate suspects were detained for both crimes and were on trial at the end of the year.
- In June the body of Minerva Torres was formally identified by her family, after being kept by the authorities for two years despite clear evidence as to her identity. Minerva Torres was 18 years old when she was abducted in Chihuahua city in 2003. The family filed charges against state authorities for illegal concealment of a body.
High levels of violence related to drug crime and kidnapping kept public security high on the political agenda. The government extended the military's involvement in policing functions in a number of states with the initiative "Secure Mexico", leading to more than 5,000 arrests.
- In May, three young men and a federal police agent were reportedly unlawfully killed in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, by members of the Federal Preventive Police, a police force primarily made up of military personnel. Police reportedly opened fire on the victims' vehicles without provocation or warning. Families were denied information about the official investigation which was repeatedly delayed.
Unfair justice system and discrimination
A number of factors contributed to undermining the right to a fair trial, including a failure to ensure immediate access to defence counsel and a lack of effective oversight of the prosecution service and judicial police. In May the recently founded National Council to Prevent Discrimination published a national survey illustrating the patterns of discrimination faced by socially disadvantaged groups.
- In September Felipe Arreaga, a human rights defender and prisoner of conscience known for his environmental activism, was acquitted of murder charges after his defence demonstrated that the prosecution case had been fabricated as a reprisal for his activism.
- Nicolasa Ramos was released from prison in Baja California on appeal for lack of evidence. She had served nearly three years in prison on the basis of reportedly fabricated criminal charges of stealing water from the local authority on behalf of the long-standing squatter community of Maclovio Rojas, Tijuana.
- In June human rights defender and gay activist Octavio Acuña was murdered in Querétaro. He and his partner had filed a complaint against local police officers for discrimination in 2004 and had complained of homophobic harassment prior to the murder. Despite this, official investigators reportedly ignored evidence that the killing was motivated by homophobia.
Arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment
Reports of arbitrary detention and torture remained common. The authorities failed to investigate many reports of arbitrary detention or torture. The National Human Rights Commission issued a report highlighting the widespread practice of torture across the country.
- In June, Teodoro Pérez Pérez, an indigenous Tzotzil man from Yabteclúm, was allegedly tortured by members of the Chiapas State Police. They reportedly beat him, threw hot water on his chest, forced him to undress and threatened him with rape. He was released the following morning without charge. He was reportedly threatened after filing a complaint.
- At least 12 people were convicted of involvement in violent demonstrations in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, in May 2004, many reportedly on the basis of evidence extracted under torture. The state authorities refused to investigate well-founded allegations of torture or reports of irregularities in the presentation of prosecution evidence and police conduct.
- In June excessive force was reportedly used against protesters in Cancún resulting in 34 detentions and a number of injuries. The authorities failed to investigate complaints of ill-treatment and torture.
Journalists and human rights defenders
At least four journalists were killed, apparently in reprisal for their work exposing corruption and organized crime. Many others were harassed, threatened and assaulted. The government promised to assign a special prosecutor to investigate cases. Human rights defenders working in local communities also faced intimidation, threats and judicial harassment.
- Obtilia Eugenio Manuel, a human rights defender in Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero state, received death threats against herself and her family. She had highlighted abuses committed by the military in the region, including the reported rape of two indigenous women in 2002. The federal authorities provided some protection but the state authorities reportedly failed to conduct an effective investigation.
- In December, journalist and women's rights defender Lydia Cacho was arrested and taken to Puebla, where she was held for 30 hours and charged with defamation. She was released on bail and was awaiting trial at the end of the year.
In April police used excessive force to break up a protest in the town of Tila. They arrested 49 people, many of whom were reportedly detained arbitrarily and held incommunicado for several days.
In June various families were forced to flee their homes in Sabanilla municipality after reported threats from members of a paramilitary group, Peace and Justice (Paz y Justicia).
In October Hurricane Stan left many poor rural communities in extreme hardship and the response of the authorities was reportedly inadequate. New state legislation restricting press freedom was invoked to detain and question the editor of a local newspaper which alleged corruption in the official response to the natural disaster.
In July the Zapatista National Liberation Army, an armed opposition group, announced plans to initiate alternative political activism.
There was a crisis in the rule of law and the protection of human rights. In an apparent attempt to deter opposition, the new state government executed several questionable old arrest warrants, mounted politically motivated prosecutions and undermined freedom of expression.
- Agustín Sosa, a grassroots political activist, was charged and remanded in custody, initially accused of murder. Despite winning federal appeals on the grounds of insufficient evidence, local prosecutors brought further unfounded charges. National and international concern at the worsening human rights situation in the state led to his release along with the majority of other detained activists.
- Staff of the opposition newspaper Noticias were harassed and threatened during the year, particularly by members of a trade union linked to the local governing party. The state authorities failed to take steps to investigate or punish threats against staff and attacks on the newspaper's premises. In October the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures in favour of the director and staff of Noticias.
Environmental activists were harassed and attacked.
- In June gunmen in Petatlán reportedly tried to kill environmental activist Albertano Peñalosa. Two of his sons were killed and two others injured in the ambush which was apparently carried out in reprisal for his efforts to save the local forests.
In September, after two years of campaigning by local human rights organizations, legislation was passed criminalizing forced disappearance.
The manner in which the authorities sought approval for the proposed construction of the hydroelectric La Parota dam continued to cause division and communal violence.
Economic, social and cultural rights
Denial of rights to basic services remained a primary concern in many poor sectors of society, particularly indigenous communities. The impact of government programmes to alleviate poverty and marginalization remained limited.
In Chiapas and Guerrero, two of the states with the largest indigenous populations, there were insufficient health care professionals available to meet the minimum needs of the population.
Access to clean water was an increasing concern, reportedly giving rise to 413 community conflicts across the country.
AI country visits
In August AI's Secretary General visited Mexico and met senior government officials. AI delegates also visited the country in March.
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