Human Rights in Jeopardy (Oral Statement Made to Non - Governmental Organisations in Geneva , Switzerland)

  Amnesty International has followed the human rights situation in Mexico closely for more than two decades, including the adoption of legislative, juridical and administrative measures directed towards the protection and respect for fundamental human rights in the country. Although Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its satisfaction at the introduction of such measures in Mexico, the organisation has not ceased to observe with growing concern the prevalence of human rights violations which affect a large sector of the population. Although the most conspicuous and frequent victims of such violations tend to be members of the most marginalised sectors, including indigenous peasants and women, Amnesty International has documented cases indicating that members of other sectors -for example the Church, journalism and political parties of the opposition - run the risk of suffering human rights violations in Mexico. In addition, it is evident that the vast majority of victims or their relatives do not have effective recourse before the law to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations or to receive compensation for the damages suffered. In this way, Amnesty International continues to document threats and attacks suffered by human rights defenders, including priests, dedicated to the protection of human rights, as well as journalists attempting to denounce violations of these rights. Mexico's deteriorating human rights situation is still a long way from being resolved satisfactorily. Over the past years, with the growing participation of the armed forces in internal security matters, those members of the armed forces accused of human rights violations appear to enjoy a notorious level of impunity. This phenomenon has shown an alarming increase, most notably in those states where security forces have been mobilised in the context of counter-insurgency and anti-narcotics operations. Amnesty International has observed, with grave concern, an increase in the number of "disappearances" reported in Mexico over the past three years. In many such cases there is well founded evidence to suggest the participation of members of the armed forces in such operations. The lack of any provision in Mexican law criminalising this serious crime, along with the impunity granted to those responsible, serves as a green light to those who perpetrate the crime in the future. Any political will which the Mexican government may show in addressing the problem of "disappearances" has yet to be reflected in its signing and ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, adopted by the Organisation of American States on 28 March 1996. Amnesty International also continues to voice its concern for the high incidence of torture in Mexico. Although the Mexican government has made a formal commitment to uphold international treaties prohibiting torture, including the ratification of both the UN Convention against Torture (January 1987) as well as the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (December 1985), the UN Committee against Torture, in its report of April 1997, stated that not only does torture occur systematically but also that, apart from exceptional cases, those responsible are not brought to justice. The massacre of 45 indigenous people carried out by members of an alleged paramilitary group in the community of Acteal in Chiapas State, in December 1997, highlighted the serious lack of protection for human rights that prevails in Mexico. Weeks prior to the massacre, domestic and international human rights organisations made public the tensions being generated in the region through a series of complaints about threats, attacks, house destruction, and the forced displacement of indigenous communities. Although Amnesty International recognises the gravity of the situation in Chiapas, the organisation would like stress that the worsening human rights problem is not confined to this state alone. In a number of other states, notably in Guerrero and Oaxaca, Amnesty International has documented scores of cases of gross human rights violations, including torture, "disappearance" and extrajudicial execution, carried out by alleged members of the security forces as well as so-called paramilitary groups. The July 1995 massacre of 17 peasants by members of the state judicial police force in Aguas Blancas, in Guerrero State, is the incident which, as in the Acteal case, shook the international community. But the Aguas Blancas massacre was not an isolated incident. Since then Amnesty International has documented scores of cases in which members of the main opposition party in Mexico, the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), Party of the Democratic Revolution, as well as peasant activists, have been killed by members of the security forces or alleged paramilitary groups. This includes several possible extrajudicial executions in Guerrero and Oaxaca during the course of 1997. In September 1997 Amnesty International put a comprehensive set of recommendations to the government of Mexico designed to reverse the worsening human rights situation in the country and bring to an end the impunity which prevails there. This is not the occasion to detail these recommendations. However, Amnesty International takes this opportunity to make the following recommendations: Firstly, the Mexican government must observe and fully implement international human rights treaties of which it is a State party. In addition it should seek to conform to other human rights standards which do not have the legal force of a treaty but which nevertheless are important if Mexico is to be seen to accept the spirit and wording of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other standards derived from it. Secondly, Amnesty International urges the Mexican government to bring an end to impunity, by ensuring that all complaints of grave human rights violations, including torture, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions, are investigated immediately, exhaustively and impartially, and that those responsible for these violations are promptly brought to justice. Thirdly, Amnesty International calls on the Mexican government to publish and implement a National Action Plan for the protection of human rights, in keeping with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by Mexico and other members states of the United Nations at the UN World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993. Amnesty International believes that in adopting and fully implementing the above recommendations, Mexico would be taking an important step towards the respect and protection of human rights, in this, the 50th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT, 1 EASTON STREET, LONDON WC1X 8DJ, UNITED KINGDOM

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