Washington, DC—Today Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and 32 other Members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to request specific information on widespread human rights abuses committed by Mexican security forces under the Calderon administration. Such information will allow the U.S. Department of State to accurately assess Mexico’s compliance with the human rights requirements in the Merida Initiative security assistance package. This information is crucial to the Department of States’ forthcoming report to Congress; according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Mexico has not met the Merida Initiative’s human rights requirements.
“Human rights violations, including torture, continue to be systematic practices in Mexico,” affirms WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico Maureen Meyer. “To date the Mexican government has failed to hold the vast majority of soldiers and police responsible for the abuses they commit.”
The U.S. Congress conditions 15% of the Merida Initiative’s funds to Mexico on improvements in human rights in several priority areas including investigating and prosecuting in civilian courts soldiers and federal police responsible for human rights violations and ensuring the prohibition on the use evidence obtained through torture in legal proceedings. Each year, in order to release these funds, the U.S. Department of State is required to submit a report to Congress certifying that the Mexican government has made sufficient progress in addressing these priority areas.
The Department of State’s annual report offers a vital opportunity to provide a thorough, accurate assessment of these important human rights benchmarks. However, as the letter notes, “…the Mexican government is not implementing the reforms needed to adequately protect civilians [and] Mexican security forces are not being held accountable for grave abuses.”These reforms are especially urgent given that since 2006, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has registered a five-fold increase in complaints of serious human rights violations by Mexican soldiers and federal police—including torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances.
“Real progress would be demonstrated by having more than just a handful of soldiers and police prosecuted for the human rights violations they commit and by soldiers being prosecuted in civilian, not military, jurisdiction,” states Meyer. “Sadly, this is not currently the case, and the Department of State should reflect this reality.”
In Congressman McGovern’s letter, the 33 Members of Congress ask Secretary Clinton to obtain specific information on the Mexican government’s compliance with the human rights requirements, such as case-specific information on ongoing investigations. The letter states that “If, upon obtaining this information, the Department of State determines that the human rights requirements are not being met, we believe your report should reflect this conclusion and the 15 percent of select funds should be withheld.”
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