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Mexico: US State Department Should Insist on Rights Compliance

Report Required to Release Withheld Aid Ignores Key Evidence on Military Abuses

(Washington, DC) - The US State Department report on Mexico's compliance with human rights requirements included in the Merida Initiative aid package does not show that Mexico meets standards that would justify the release of conditional funding, Human Rights Watch said today in a memo to Senator Patrick Leahy. As chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee in the US Senate, Leahy has expressed concerns regarding military impunity in Mexico.

The US Congress has approved US$1.12 billion for Mexico under the Merida Initiative, a multi-year regional aid package to help address the increasing violence and corruption of heavily armed drug cartels. The package, which Mexico negotiated, includes that 15 percent of most of those funds should be withheld until the State Department reports that Mexico has met four human rights requirements. One of the requirements is that military abuses be investigated and prosecuted by civilian rather than military authorities.

"[T]he State Department report does not show that Mexico is meeting the condition that requires that ‘civilian authorities are investigating and prosecuting army abuses, in accordance with Mexican and international law'," José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said in the memo. "[I]t should not be considered a sufficient justification for the release of the withheld Merida funds."

The memo says that the State Department report:

  • Describes certain actions by the administration of President Felipe Calderón that supposedly comply with the requirement to investigate and prosecute army abuses, but that in practice fail to ensure accountability for these abuses;
  • Recognizes serious structural flaws in the military justice system, including its lack of transparency, that are inconsistent with the argument that this justice system can effectively try and prosecute army abuses; and
  • Fails to include critical information that is necessary to determine whether Mexico is in fact meeting the requirements. For example, the report cites 12 convictions by the military courts, but it fails to mention that four soldiers were charged with committing crimes that are not human rights abuses, and that, based on the file numbers, eight of the cases appear to date from the 1990s.

Nonetheless, based on the State Department report, the US government has approved the release of initial funds that were subject to the human rights requirements in the Merida aid package. Before the end of the year, the State Department has to present a new report on human rights in Mexico for the release of the rest of funds subject to the requirements.

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