WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

24 Jun 2022 | Joint Statement

U.S. Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in Mexico Brings Calls and Proposals to Address Impunity, Increase Protection and Access to Justice

On June 23, 2022, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives held a public hearing on Human Rights Challenges in Mexico, with testimony from witnesses including members of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Center Prodh), ARTICLE 19, Human Rights Watch, and WOLA. The information presented paints a stark picture of a population caught between criminal violence and a lack of protection from the State, coupled with serious human rights violations committed directly by state agents. Those most victimized are often those already suffering discrimination, exclusion, or living in regions where authorities have utterly failed to protect local populations, as exemplified in the killings of Jesuit priests Javier Campos and Joaquín Mora three days before the hearing. This crime has provoked international outrage and solidarity, and was mentioned by both Co-Chairs of the congressional Commission as a call for greater action to protect Mexico’s population.

Witnesses provided updated analysis of the counterproductive human rights and security impact of the growing deployment of Mexico’s military in domestic policing tasks, noting that Mexico cannot militarily deploy its way out of the structural problems of impunity and collusion between state and non-state actors. Witnesses also emphasized the need for truly autonomous prosecutors’ offices at the federal and state levels, pointing out that the National Prosecutor, instead of developing an effective strategy against crime, has used his power arbitrarily and sought counter-reforms to Mexico’s criminal justice framework.

Also discussed was how U.S. and Mexican policies have contributed to abuses, danger, and even the death of migrants and asylum seekers traveling to and through Mexico, highlighting that border militarization and other measures designed to block migration have only increased the suffering and vulnerability of migrants by pushing them into the shadows and the hands of criminal groups, while detained migrants and asylum seekers often face deplorable conditions in migration detention centers.

Finally, witnesses spoke of the situation of the press in Mexico, where crimes against freedom of expression have an impunity rate of 98.73% and every 14 hours a journalist suffers an attack for exercising their right to disseminate information. They emphasized the need to improve preventive, investigative, and protection measures for journalists, noting that State agents are behind two out of every five attacks on the press and that the federal government routinely seeks to disqualify critical media, leaving the population vulnerable to disinformation. The witnesses also addressed the risks faced by human rights defenders, such as the relatives of the disappeared, like Javier Barajas and María del Tránsito Piña, who recently met with Commission Co-Chair James P. McGovern and presented the situation of many victims who are at risk.

In response to questions from the Members of Congress present at the hearing, witnesses offered proposals to address these problems in Mexico and through bilateral cooperation, with a focus on the need to:

  • Combat impunity by strengthening the capabilities and accountability of civilian justice and security institutions, including at the state level, rather than deepening militarization;
  • Refocus domestic and bilateral responses to migration to prioritize access to protection, accountability for abuses against migrants, and humane treatment, rather than strategies designed simply to block migration;
  • Improve the resources and capacity of Mexico’s Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists, as well as investigation of crimes against these populations;
  • Bolster forensic identification efforts and other technical capacities, supporting the implementation of Mexico’s laws against disappearances and torture;
  • Support civil society’s efforts to denounce and combat abuses;
  • Ensure that the results of the new U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework are closely monitored by Congress and measured through indicators of improvements in institutional actions, violence reduction, and other indicators directly linked to the well-being of the population.

The full testimony of each witness will be posted on the hearing website, along with the video of the hearing.


Read the full testimony of Stephanie Brewer, WOLA’s Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights.