Human Rights WatchWorld Report ContentsDownloadPrintOrderHRW Homepage

World map Americas



Europe and Central Asia

Middle East and North Africa

Special Issues and Campaigns

United States


Children’s Rights

Women’s Human Rights


The Role of the International Community

United Nations and Organization of American States

The full scope of Mexico's human rights violations was brought into focus in November 1999, when United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson visited the country. The Mexican government did not consent to an advance research team, limiting the high commissioner to gathering information during her visits to Mexico City, Chiapas state, and Baja California state. Nonetheless, more than one hundred nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) prepared a human rights report for the high commissioner, listing their most pressing concerns. In addition to problems with the administration of justice, the report strongly criticized the involvement of the military in matters of internal security, inadequate protection of indigenous people's rights, weaknesses in economic and political rights, and attacks on human rights defenders.

The high commissioner spoke out strongly against human rights violations in Mexico. After meeting survivors of the December 1997 massacre in Acteal, Chiapas, for example, she pointed to "the failure in too many cases to punish rights violators."

In July, the Office of the High Commissioner planned to move forward with a two-part technical cooperation program to be implemented with Mexico. Its first segment, scheduled to begin before Fox assumed the presidency, was to include limited training programs for the judicial police, enhancing the federal government's National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH), and working to strengthen the ability of indigenous rights groups to work with the United Nations. The office hoped to implement a more ambitious program under the new administration. At this writing, the first segment of the technical cooperation program had yet to begin.

After the high commissioner's visit, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Asma Jahangir released a report based on her July 1999 mission to Mexico. "The Government has taken some initial steps to guarantee the right to life of all persons," the report found, but it concluded: "Unfortunately, these positive undertakings have not been sufficient to correct the situation, as extrajudicial killings and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators continue."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued two case reports on Mexico and accepted two new cases for review. In its report on the 1986 murder by non-state actors of Pedro Peredo Valderrama, the commission blasted the Mexican government for precisely the type of irregularities that continued to plague the justice system: arrest warrants for the accused were not carried out until 1996, nine years after they were issued; one of the accused had escaped arrest in 1988 with the aid of police; and a judge acquitted two of the accused after committing a series of irregularities, including relying on information never entered as evidence and wrongly attributing exculpatory statements to defendants.

Another case handled by the commission-involving Brig. Gen. Francisco Gallardo-remained unresolved. Incarcerated since 1993 in retaliation for his call for improved respect for human rights in the military, the general faced a prison sentence of more than fourteen years. In 1996, the commission called for his release.

European Union

The Global Agreement between Mexico and the European Union entered into force in July, replacing an interim accord in place since 1999. The agreement included a standard democracy clause, which was nevertheless a subject of contention during negotiations. In addition, the Global Agreement included a chapter on political dialogue and cooperation programs-including issues related to human rights. Article 39 of the agreement, for example, noted that cooperation would focus mainly on the development of civil society, the implementation of training and information measures to help institutions function better, including in the human rights field, and the promotion of human rights and democratic principles. The agreement did not expressly exclude the development of such programs with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), but neither did it specify that NGOs would take part in such activities.

United States

As in the recent past, the U.S. Department of State issued a strong report on the situation of human rights in Mexico, noting: "Continued serious abuses include extrajudicial killings; disappearances; torture and other abuse; police corruption and alleged involvement in narcotics-related abuses; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; lack of due process; judicial inefficiency andcorruption; illegal searches; attacks and threats against journalists; some self-censorship; assaults, harassment, and threats against human rights monitors; violence and discrimination against women; child prostitution and abuse; discrimination against indigenous people; violence and discrimination against religious minorities; violence against homosexuals; limits on worker rights; extensive child labor in agriculture and in the informal economy; and trafficking in persons."

Despite these criticisms, strong bilateral action to promote human rights appeared again to take a back seat to higher priority issues such as economic relations, immigration control, and narcotics. During a meeting in August, President Bill Clinton told President-elect Fox that the United States wished to see his government make progress on human rights.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

Current Events

The Latest News - Archive














Copyright © 2001
Human RIghts Watch