I am writing to express my profound concern regarding credible reports that your administration has asked Ms. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), to dismiss Mr. Amerigo Incalcaterra as her representative in Mexico.

Dear President Calderón,

I am writing to express my profound concern regarding credible reports that your administration has asked Ms. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), to dismiss Mr. Amerigo Incalcaterra as her representative in Mexico.

According to official sources cited in articles from the Mexican and international press, the federal government has requested that the high commissioner remove Mr. Incalcaterra from the Mexico office due to his “high profile.” For instance, the Secretary of National Defense has reportedly expressed his dissatisfaction with Mr. Incalcaterra’s observations on the role of the military in the fight against organized crime. More to the point, your government’s call to remove Mr. Incalcaterra was allegedly triggered by a request by the National Human Rights Commission’s president after Mr. Incalcaterra made public statements that were supportive of Human Rights Watch’s recent critical report on the commission’s failure to take crucial steps to promote human rights progress in Mexico.

Given the seriousness of the issue, it is critical that your government publicly clarifies the circumstances that led to Mr. Incalcaterra’s departure from Mexico. In a press released issued yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed your government’s commitment to human rights and explained the mechanisms that, in theory, are applicable to the removal and appointment of UN officials. However, it does not explicitly deny that your government made an intervention in Mr. Incalcaterra’s case.

Any intervention by the Mexican government in the affairs of the UNHCHR’s office in Mexico would represent an alarming step backward in the foreign policy that Mexico has developed since 2000. Since then, Mexico has actively supported international human rights monitoring in the country, particularly by the United Nations, which, to be effective, requires voicing criticisms publicly as well as in private. This policy would be seriously undermined if the government were not willing to tolerate fair, fact-based public criticism.

Furthermore, such an intervention would be contrary to the purpose of any international human rights cooperation agreement. According to the agreement signed by your government and the high commissioner in February of this year, the UNHCHR’s office must monitor the human rights situation in Mexico with the “principal objective…to strengthen national capacity for the protection of human rights and to direct attention to these subjects, situations and priority areas.”

For years now, the Mexican government has understood that vigorous international monitoring of the country’s human rights situation is in its best interest. A genuine cooperation agreement presumes that international officials responsible for implementing it will independently monitor the human rights situation in the country, through public and private observations on the policies and practices that must be addressed. If this were not done, these agreements would become mere formalities without any substance, and therefore would have very limited impact.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director

CC: Ambassador Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Foreign Secretary of Mexico
Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador in the United States