They did it again. Despite the fact that not a single soldier responsible for human rights violations has been held accountable by civilian authorities in the years since the onset of the Merida Initiative, the State Department released its second report on September 2nd affirming that the Mexican government has met the Merida Initiative’s human rights requirements. This report not only recommends the release of roughly $36 million in Merida funds that had been previously withheld from the 2009 and 2010 budgets, but also sends the wrong message to Mexico on human rights.
For over a year, LAWG and its partner US and Mexican NGOs have been persistent in reminding Secretary of State Clinton and other officials that long-lasting improvements to public security in Mexico cannot be accomplished without ensuring advances in human rights. However, State’s latest assessment runs contrary to what our organizations, as well as the State Department’s own reports, have clearly demonstrated. In response, LAWG joined with Human Rights Watch, Washington Office on Latin America, Amnesty International and five Mexican human rights organizations to send the message to Congress that it is in the best interest of both countries to provide a candid assessment of Mexico’s progress towards improving accountability and transparency and withhold funds pending real progress.
While we underscore our grave concerns regarding ongoing human rights violations, particularly impunity for abuses committed by the military and use of torture, we do want to note one step—albeit small—in the right direction. In the September 2nd report, the State Department identified its intention to withhold a portion of FY10 supplemental funds (roughly $26 million) until two events took place, one of which is the introduction (but not the passage or implementation) of a proposal to reform the Military Code of Justice. The impact or effectiveness of such a proposal cannot be evaluated as it has yet to be made public, but the understanding is that this reform would limit the crimes that can be tried in military courts. The State Department’s effort to press for a reform to military jurisdiction is positive in that it points to the urgency of such a reform; however, mere legislation does not alone ensure fulfillment of the human rights requirements detailed in the Merida Initiative which “measure not only changes in law, but in practice”.
You can find below the full statement issued jointly by LAWGEF, Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Washington Office on Latin America, Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, Amnesty International USA, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos Human Rights Watch, Fundar, and the Monitor Civil de la Policía en Guerrero.
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