Human Rights and Civil Society

Civil society and NGOs voice human rights concerns in Mexico

Photo: Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos

07/19/13 (written by petrichk) – Last week, over 30 nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups came together in a press conference to announce that the Enrique Peña Nieto government has failed to implement 80 recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in 2009. The majority of these reforms are focused on creating actionable legislation for prosecuting human rights violations, particularly by military offenders, and with the goal of bringing Mexico into compliance with numerous international agreements that the country has signed over the past ten years. Of particular concern is the continued targeting of vulnerable groups including minorities, women, and children, and the culture of impunity that continues to pervade the judicial system.

On October 23, 2013, the Universal Periodic Review, an arm of the UN Human Rights Committee, will review Mexico again for compliance based on their original 91 recommendations. The Committee has previously criticized Mexico for failing to create systematic human rights protections at the national level. El Universal quoted Racynzka Agniezka, the secretary of the National Civil Organization of Human Rights, who predicted that Mexico will again fail the evaluation because it has not eliminated practices such as arraigo and pre-trial detention in its penal system. Arraigo, a hotly debated issue, is a juridical measure that can be solicited by the prosecutor before a judge within the respective district. Under current law, an arraigo detainee may be held without any formal arrest or criminal charges for up to 40 days, or up to 80 days with explicit judicial approval, as long as there is some allegation of connections to organized crime.

For its part, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) recently released new statistics on human rights crimes committed by military, police, and security officials between January and June of this year. According to the CNDH, 21 people have been killed and 20 people disappeared by government officials in the six-month period, suggesting a continuation of the problematic trends discussed in the UNHRC press conference. An additional 571 people have reported cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment at the hands of military and governmental officials. To read the full CNDH report, click here.

In response to the recent outcry against alleged human rights abuses, the Peña Nieto administration has insisted that the trend is a rollover from the previous government under Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), and that the current administration is ardently working to correct the failures from earlier leaders. However, nongovernmental observers have criticized the Peña Nieto government for trying to shift attention away from the assault on the cartels and the resulting violent instability, as well as his continued reliance on the military for domestic police work.


“Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Violacion a los Derechos Humanos. omisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos Mexico. July 2013.

Alcantara, Liliana. “Sigue violacion a derechos humanos en Mexico: ONG.” El Universal. July 10, 2013.

Cawley, Marguerite. “Mexico Security Forces Facing More Scrutiny After Accusations of Abuse.” Insight Crime. July 10 2013.

Jimenez, Eugenia. “Aumenten violaciones a derechos humanos in Mexico: ONGs.” Milenio. July 10, 2013.

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