Earlier this week, thirty-three members of Congress sent a “dear colleague” letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concerns regarding human rights and the rule of law in Mexico. In the letter, members of Congress call on Secretary Clinton to make detailed inquiries into human rights abuses committed by security forces during the Calderon administration as the State Department prepares its next report for Congress on the human rights requirements included in the Merida Initiative.
Since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006, he has responded to organized crime related violence with the deployment of thousands of Mexican military and federal police throughout the country. During this same period, complaints of serious human rights violations by Mexican security forces have increased five-fold—including torture, rape, murder and forced disappearances. The letter reiterates Congress’ recognition of the need for abuses committed by soldiers against civilians to be investigated in civilian jurisdiction. However, impunity for such abuses remains the norm despite the Mexican Supreme Court’s July 2011 ruling that military jurisdiction should not be applied in cases of alleged human rights abuses against civilians.
Members of Congress also express concern regarding the use of torture, still a widespread practice despite reforms to the Mexican Constitution to prohibit the use of confessions obtained through torture and other forms of ill treatment, such as in the case of Israel Arzate Meléndez, a man who was beaten, given electric shocks, and suffocated into giving a false confession.
Members of Congress conclude by asking, “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.”
We applaud members of Congress who have taken a stand in support for human rights and the rule of law, and join them in urging Secretary Clinton to provide a full, accurate and thorough assessment of the Mexican government’s efforts to fulfill the human rights requirements in the Merida Initiative.
The letter was coordinated by Congressman James P. McGovern (MA), who was joined by Reps. Nita Lowey (NY), Jan Schakowsky (IL), John Lewis (GA), James Moran (VA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Sam Farr (CA) and John Conyers (MI), among others.