Human Rights Organizations Urge State Department to Withhold Security Funds for Mexico Until Mexico Demonstrates Concrete Progress on Human Rights
Hearing in Congress on Thursday to Explore U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation
(Washington, DC) — In advance of a Congressional hearing on U.S.-Mexico security cooperation and funding, a coalition of Mexican, U.S. and international human rights organizations today urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to withhold funds to support Mexico’s anti-drug operations until the government makes concrete and measurable advances on human rights, as required under the Merida Initiative.
As part of the Merida Initiative, Congress stipulated that 15 percent of specific funding categories would not be released until the U.S. State Department reports that the Mexican government is meeting four human rights requirements, including investigating and prosecuting soldiers and federal police alleged to have committed human rights violations.
"Our organizations recognize the current challenges to public security confronted by Mexico. However, withholding the conditioned funds under the Merida Initiative until concrete and measurable advances have occurred recognizes that long-lasting improvements to public security cannot be accomplished without ensuring advances in human rights," said the joint statement.
Amnesty International USA, Fundar, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, Monitor Civil de la Policía y los cuerpos de seguridad Publica de la Montaña de Guerrero, Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, and the Washington Office on Latin America issued the statement one day before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs holds a hearing on the next steps for the Merida Initiative.
The multi-year program provides equipment and training to support law enforcement operations and technical assistance for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. In 2008, Congress approved an initial $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In 2009, Congress approved another $300 million for Mexico and $110 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In 2010, $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America has been requested from Congress US State Department, http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/fs/122397.htm.
When the State Department issued its first “Mexico-Merida Initiative Report” to Congress in August 2009, triggering the release of the first two years of assistance, the organizations said the report lacked the information necessary to support the claim that the Mexican government has made significant progress in key areas of human rights to justify the release of the full amount of Merida funds. The organizations note, however, that the State Department’s own "Annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Mexico for 2009" identifies violations including “unlawful killings by security forces; kidnappings; physical abuse…arbitrary arrests and detention; corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency that engendered impunity within the judicial system; confessions coerced through torture” as well as “multiple reports of forced disappearances by the army and police.” The Country Report further states that “the CNDH [National Human Rights Commission] verified that army doctors or other members of the military falsified evidence to cover up abuses” and that “individuals [were] vulnerable to coercion to sign false statements before being presented to a judge.” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, March 11, 2010, available at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136119.htm.
The organizations said the Mexican government has failed to make concrete and measureable progress in the human rights priority areas identified in the Merida Initiative, including:
- Ensuring that civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities investigate and prosecute members of the federal police and military forces.
- To date, only a single human rights violation perpetrated since 2007 by a member of the military has resulted in a trial and upheld conviction, according to the Mexican government. This case was tried in a military court, contrary to the Merida Initiative condition and international law. None of the numerous allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by the military during President Calderón’s administration have been tried by civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities.
- Improving the transparency and accountability of federal police forces.
- Recent reforms and public security policies, such as the June 2009 law creating the new Federal Police, fail to incorporate effective mechanisms for citizen participation and accountability. The annual reports of the Secretary of Public Security characterize citizen participation as limited to the presentation of complaints; currently, there are not adequate mechanisms to ensure citizen participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of public security policies at any level; and on the focus on strengthening municipal police, who are the forces who have the closest and most regular contact with the population, is minimal.
- Enforcing the prohibition on the use of testimony obtained through torture.
- Security forces routinely use torture to obtain testimonies. The State Department’s own 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practice in Mexico states "judges, particularly in areas that had not yet implemented the [judicial] reforms, reportedly continued to allow statements coerced through torture to be used as evidence against the accused, a practice particularly subject to abuse because confessions were often the primary evidence in criminal conviction."
- Establishing a mechanism for regular consultations with human rights and civil society organizations to make recommendations concerning the Merida Initiative.
- The "Mechanism for Dialogue with Civil Society Organizations" has not been an effective consultation mechanism, as it has provided no real opportunities for Mexican human rights and other civil society organizations to provide recommendations and evaluate the Merida Initiative in a way that would result in concrete action and outcomes by the Mexican government.