09/18/13 (written by gehrenberg) — Criticism surrounding human rights in Mexico surfaced again, this time coming from international organization Amnesty International (AI). On September 9, AI responded to a report the Mexican government had sent to the United Nations (UN) in preparation for its upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on October 23, 2013. The UPR is a process during which the UN reviews the human rights records of all member states. Every four years, each country submits what actions it has taken to improve human rights within their country, as well as showing their commitment to fulfill their human rights obligations. The UN first reviewed Mexico in 2009, issuing 99 recommendations for how to improve human rights protections, 83 of which Mexico agreed to comply with. The 16 recommendations it refused, however, included controversial issues like the practice of arraigo and reforming the Mexican Military Code of Justice (Código de Justicia Militar).
Mexico’s report to the UN earlier this month summarized the country’s progress in meeting the UPR’s earlier recommendations. According to news outlets, AI’s response to Mexico’s UPR is intended to give reviewers at the UN more information on hand during the upcoming review process. The report criticizes the way in which the Peña Nieto administration in Mexico has continued the militarized approach to combat organized crime, a policy inherited from former President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). The militarized strategy towards organized crime has left more than 60,000 people dead over the past six years. AI also called attention to the estimated 150,000 individuals displaced in Mexico because of violence and insecurity, as well as the 26,000 disappearances reported since 2006.
In addition to highlighting Mexico’s weaknesses in protecting human rights, AI was particularly concerned with the fact that Mexico’s UPR report lacked measures that would help combat such abuses in the country. According to La Jornada, AI called out Enrique Peña Nieto’s government, saying that, “the majority of the actions reported refer to law initiatives or projects which have not commenced operations, or that have not been successful at correcting the grave situation of human rights violations that occur in the country.” Daniel Zapico, AI’s Mexican representative, said that even though such projects and initiatives were a good first step, he doubted whether the government would be able to effectively implement them or put an end to human rights abuses. “With each day that passes, the victims of human rights abuses and their families feel increasingly deceived in their hope for justice,” lamented Zapico, adding that the Mexican UPR report “is characterized by a serious lack of effective measures to prevent, investigate, and repair human rights abuses in the country.”
AI’s report comes just weeks after the organization’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, wrote an open letter to President Peña Nieto urging him to address a string of forced disappearances in July and August. (Read more about that letter in the Justice in Mexico August News Monitor). AI also published a report in July to the 17 countries, including Mexico, slated for the UN Universal Periodic Review in the coming months, offering recommendations for each on how to improve human rights protections. The eight areas of focus highlighted in AI’s recommendations for Mexico were: “ratification and implementation of international human rights standards; gender-based violence; migrants; human rights defenders and journalists; indigenous peoples; impunity and justice system; public security and enforced disappearance; and arbitrary detention and torture.”