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Fw: FNS Special Report: Mexico in the Human Rights Hot Seat

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  • Greg Cannon
    ... From: fnsnews@nmsu.edu Subject: FNS Special Report: Mexico in the Human Rights Hot Seat To: fns_nmsu-l@nmsu.edu Date: Monday, February
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2009

      --- On Mon, 2/9/09, fnsnews@... <fnsnews@...> wrote:

      From: fnsnews@... <fnsnews@...>
      Subject: FNS Special Report: Mexico in the Human Rights Hot Seat
      To: fns_nmsu-l@...
      Date: Monday, February 9, 2009, 7:12 PM

      February 9, 2009

      Human Rights News

      Mexico in the Hot Seat

      Mexico’s government is under the glare of stage lights in different
      national and international venues for allegedly allowing the systematic
      violation of human rights. The administration of President Felipe Calderon
      faces a test Tuesday, February 10, when the Geneva-based United Nations
      Human Rights Council will submit Mexico to a three-hour exam and possibly
      assign voluntary make-up work.

      Although the UN committee’s grading of Mexico’s compliance with
      international human rights standards is pending, a network of prominent
      Mexican human rights organizations has already given the Calderon
      administration an “F” in the subject matter.

      “Torture continues, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances
      occur, freedom of expression is limited, and practically none of the
      cultural and economic rights is guaranteed or protected,” charged a report
      from civil society organizations delivered to the UN Human Rights Council
      prior to this week’s meeting.

      In their report, the groups also criticized the Mexican government for
      failing to align federal and state laws with international human rights
      agreements signed by Mexico City, and for failing to ratify the
      International Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations
      to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, an agreement which could open
      to the door to prosecutions of forced disappearances and extrajudicial
      executions carried out by soldiers and police officers since the 1970s.

      A big problem, according to the report, is that the Calderon
      administration follows long-standing political traditions of permitting
      Mexican soldiers, who constitute the front-line troops in the drug war, to
      escape civilian prosecution for criminal offenses.

      Groups signing the document included the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human
      Rights Center, the Mexican Human Rights Academy, the International
      Federation of the Rights of Man, and dozens of other Mexican human rights
      advocacy organizations.

      Although the report’s authors noted progress in implementing an oral-based
      trial system with the presumption of innocence as a guiding principle, the
      activists criticized a 2008 legal reform that allows suspects to be held
      without charges for 80 days, a length of time the report compared to the
      “normal period” of preventive detention lasting two to seven days in other

      Overall, the report concludes, human rights violations and impunity are
      constants in Mexico.

      In another Swiss show-down of sorts, the Mexican government faces a
      complaint filed February 5 in the International Labor Organization (ILO)
      by an international federation of mining and metal workers. The complaint
      accuses Mexico of committing systematic violations of “union freedom” as
      defined by the ILO. According to the complaint, Mexico only permits the
      existence of company or government-sanctioned unions.

      The international unions’ action grows out of a long-running battle
      between two Mexican presidential administrations and miners’ union
      President Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, whom the Calderon administration is
      attempting to extradite from Canada to undergo prosecution at home.

      Gomez fled to Canada in 2006 after the administration of former Mexican
      President Vicente Fox pressed legal charges related to the alleged
      mishandling of union funds. Gomez and his supporters, consider the case a
      maneuver by the Mexican government to divert attention away from the
      February 2006 explosion at the Grupo Mexico-owned Pasta de Conchos coal
      mine in northern Coahuila state that killed 65 miners. Only two bodies of
      killed workers were ever recovered.

      Jose Luis Soberanes, president of the National Human Rights Commission
      (CNDH) said recently the federal attorney general’s office (PGR) was not
      addressing justice recommendations made by his office about Pasta de
      Conchos, but PGR official Juan de Dios Castro Lozano disputed the
      assertion and said an investigation into the mine disaster was open.

      Unsatisfied with the state’s response to the tragedy, victims’ relatives
      are considering taking their case to the Inter-American Commission on
      Human Rights in Washington, D.C.

      As the Calderon administration prepared to take the hot seat in Geneva
      this week, multiple human rights controversies stirred throughout the
      country and abroad. Concluding a visit to the southern state of Guerrero
      last week, a delegation from Amnesty International demanded the government
      release five indigenous men accused of the murder of an army informant
      last year.

      Kerrie Howard, deputy program director of the Americas Program for Amnesty
      International, said charges against the men, all of whom belong to the
      activist OPIM organization, are “not credible.” The OPIM has experienced a
      long series of conflicts and run-ins with the Mexican army and other

      In response to the Amnesty International visit, Guerrero Governor Zeferino
      Torreblanca said he “greatly respected” the work of the international
      advocacy organization but it was the job of the courts to decide the fate
      of the five men.

      Physicians for Human Rights, meanwhile, released a statement last week
      that said the PGR was ignoring forensic evidence challenging the official
      version of the murder of US journalist Brad Will in Oaxaca in 2006. An
      anti-government activist, Manuel Martinez Moreno, is being charged with
      the crime despite professions of innocence.

      In still another development, renewed press attention is being devoted to
      the massive May 2006 police raid against protestors in San Salvador Atenco
      outside Mexico City that resulted in the deaths of Alejandro Benumea and
      Javier Cortes Santiago, the injuries of at least 50 people and more than
      200 arrests.

      Mexico’s Supreme Court is considering a report this week by an
      investigative team headed by Justice Jesus Gudino Pelayo which concluded
      nearly 3,000 public servants committed violations of eight constitutional
      rights in Atenco.

      Sexual aggressions against 31 of 50 female detainees could have equaled
      “torture prohibited by international and national law,” according to the

      Female prisoners have testified they were forced to endure bodily
      molestation and engage in oral sex with arresting officers. At least one
      woman was reportedly subjected to forced vaginal penetration with a metal

      While condemning the “violent and criminal actions” of protestors, Justice
      Gudino Pelayo characterized the raid staged by state and federal police as
      “excessive, disproportionate, inefficient, and indolent.”

      Many of the Atenco violations described in the Supreme Court report were
      earlier documented by the CNDH.

      The Supreme Court’s report named Mexico state Governor Enrique Pena Nieto,
      federal Attorney General Eduardo Medina and Miguel Angel Yunes, director
      of a national social security institute, as among the high officials
      ultimately responsible for the police rampage. The report also questioned
      the PGR’s special unit for crimes of violence against women for its
      slowness in acting on the Atenco matter.

      The unit, currently headed by former Ciudad Juarez special women’s
      commissioner Guadalupe Morfin, reports directly to Attorney General
      Medina. At the time of the Atenco confrontation, Medina oversaw federal
      police sent to help crush the rebellion. As Mexico’s attorney general,
      Medina is in a key position in any US-Mexico security alliance, which
      could expand under the Obama White House.

      Governor Pena, who is frequently mentioned as a possible presidential
      candidate for the opposition PRI party in 2012, said the Supreme Court
      report was the opinion of one judge but he stressed his administration is
      cooperating with a probe that represents an opportunity to clarify facts.

      No reparations of damages or prosecutions against Pena and other
      officials will result from the Supreme Court’s Atenco deliberations this
      week. Arguing constitutional limitations prevent the Supreme Court from
      meting out punishments, Justice Gudino Pelayo said the high court’s final
      report could instead be used to help regulate police conduct vis-a-vis
      future citizen demonstrations.

      Atenco activists continue demanding punishment for state officials and
      freedom for remaining detainees, some of whom are serving very lengthy
      prison terms human rights advocates have characterized as draconian.

      “We demand a solution to this case, the release of all our companions
      and justice,” said Trinidad Ramirez, wife of imprisoned Atenco leader
      Ignacio del Valle, who was sentenced to 112 years in prison for kidnapping
      and other alleged crimes.

      Sources: El Sur/Proceso, February 8, 2009. Article by Homero Campa. El
      Sur, January 30, 2009; February 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 2009. Articles by Aurora
      Harrison, Tomas Tenorio Galindo, Zacarias Cervantes, Daniel Velásquez
      Olea, and Agencia Reforma. La Jornada, January 29, 2009; February 6 and 9,
      2009. Articles by A. Mendez, Patricia Munoz, Carolina  Gomez, Alma Munoz,
      Jesús Aranda, Victor Ballinas, Enrique Mendez, Roberto Garduno, and the
      DPA news agency. Tribuna de la Bahia/Agencia Reforma, January 28, 2009.
      Cimacnoticias.com, January 8, 2009. Article by Guadalupe Cruz Jaimes.

      Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
      Center for Latin American and Border Studies
      New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

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