Dear Mr. President:

We were encouraged to learn of the recent arrest and indictment of the former director of the Federal Security Directorate, Miguel Nazar Haro, to face charges brought by the Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past.

Dear Mr. President:

We were encouraged to learn of the recent arrest and indictment of the former director of the Federal Security Directorate, Miguel Nazar Haro, to face charges brought by the Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past. As you know, Human Rights Watch strongly supported your decision to establish the prosecutor’s office to address what was one the most glaring miscarriages of justice that you inherited from your predecessors—the failure to hold officials accountable for egregious human rights abuses. Your initiative represented an important break from years of official impunity and indicated a new course for justice in Mexico. The nation’s highest court has since followed your lead with its decision last November to uphold the basic tenets of Mexican and international law and authorize the prosecution of Nazar Haro and other officials suspected of participating in the forced disappearance of Jesús Piedra Ibarra in the 1970s.

Thanks to your historic initiative and to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, Mexico is now, for the very first time, set to prosecute a former high level official for allegedly participating in egregious human rights violations. Our experience in other countries has shown us that it often the first arrest of this sort that is decisive in tipping the scales against impunity. In the case of Mexico, decades of official deceit and denial have conditioned people to be distrustful of initiatives like this one. As a result, many victims and relatives have been reluctant to cooperate fully with the Special Prosecutor’s Office. We hope that this arrest, and the coming trial, may serve as evidence that a new era of accountability is at hand in Mexico—and that this evidence will soon be corroborated through arrests and prosecutions in the hundreds of other cases before the special prosecutor.

In celebrating this recent accomplishment, we also believe it is important not to overlook the fact that two other suspects in the same case, Luis de la Barreda Moreno and Juventino Romero Cisneros, remain at large despite arrest warrants issued against them over two months ago. Similarly, another suspect, Isidro Galeana, was able to elude capture for several weeks, until his death in January. What is particularly disturbing about the Galeana case are the credible allegations that he was being protected by local policemen in Guerrero, who served as his bodyguards when they should have been arresting him.

President Fox, under your leadership, Mexican law enforcement agencies have proven their effectiveness and resolve by arresting some of the country’s most powerful and violent drug traffickers. We believe it is it critically important that your government devote the same attention and resources to executing the arrest warrants obtained by the special prosecutor of human rights cases. All law enforcement agencies should understand that these cases are a top priority of your government. One way to make that clear would be conduct a thorough investigation into allegations that local authorities helped Isidro Galeana escape justice and to apply appropriate sanctions to any official who may have done so.

For justice to prevail, of course, it is not enough for suspects to be arrested, they must also be tried and, where proven guilty, convicted. It is critically important therefore that the special prosecutor’s office receive active collaboration from the Mexican military, which played an active in internal security operations during the era when the abuses under investigation were committed.

Another source of information that could prove useful in establishing accountability for these crimes is the United States government, which possesses thousands of documents concerning the Mexican “dirty war” in its archives from that era. These documents could assist prosecutors in establishing how Mexico’s security services functioned and what role specific individuals played within them. There is good reason to think the U.S. archives contain information on Nazar Haro, given that he served as a liaison for the CIA and was investigated by a federal prosecutor and briefly arrested to face charges for alleged participation in a car theft ring, only escaping prosecution by posting bail and fleeing the country.

We understand that the special prosecutor will soon submit a formal petition to the United States government requesting access to relevant documents. We would like to respectfully suggest that you raise this issue in your meeting with President George W. Bush this week. However, given the sensitive nature of the material, that request could be greatly facilitated by conveying to President Bush that the Nazar Haro case—and the other cases under investigation by the special prosecutor—are a top priority for your government.

I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

José Miguel Vivanco
Executive Director

c.c Dr. Santiago Creel, Secretario de Gobernación
c.c Gral. Rafael Macedo de la Concha, Procurador General de la República
c.c Dr. Luis Ernesto Derbez, Secretario de Relaciones Exteriores
c.c Dr. Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, Fiscal Especial para Movimientos Sociales y Políticos