Mexico: UNHCHR publishes recommendations to address serious human rights violations

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Focus on strengthening investigation and prosecution as well as institutional capacities  

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has published a number of recommendations on Mexico, after formally receiving their written response at a meeting in New York on 20 October 2016.

Of the recommendations, eight involve measures to improve the documentation, investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations in Mexico. The recommendations address specific types of violations, such as preventive detention (arraigo), torture and enforced disappearance, particularly vulnerable groups, the role of public security and the legal and institutional frameworks responsible for providing accountability. They include suggestions to improve the design, structure and utilisation of databases to record persons deprived of their liberty and cases of violence against women. The recommendations also provide for a broader recognition of the role of registries or databases, such as the Information Documentation System (I-DOC), which is designed to improve and systematise the documentation and analysis of high quantities of human rights violations.

Relevant recommendations focus on the following issues:

1. Establishment of the Advisory Council: Foster the capacities to investigate and prosecute and to reverse the impunity rates prevailing in the country, by means of an establishment of the Advisory Council of experts on human rights and impunity. This body should present an implementable roadmap to address impunity.

Mexico’s response: Existing autonomous institutions, which defend and promote human rights and fight against impunity, include the National Human Rights Commission, the National Coordination Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice and the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data. The potential for the creation of an additional national human rights organisation with national experts is acknowledged.

2. Due investigations of serious human rights violations: Strengthen the efforts to ensure that all serious human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, are duly investigated and prosecuted by a specialised office within the Attorney General’s Office. This body should complement the existing units, and have adequate human, technical and financial resources to carry out its tasks.

Mexico’s response: The Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Human Rights, Crime Prevention and Community Services was previously established with the Special Prosecutor for Missing Persons (FEBPD) and the Special Prosecutor for Crimes of Violence against Women and Human Trafficking (FEVIMTRA). Moreover, the Specialised Unit on the Crime of Torture (UEIDT) was created within the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Federal Crimes, concentrating all investigations related to torture within the Attorney General’s Office.

3. Military Justice Code: Amend Military Justice Code and other norms to warrant that human rights violations committed against the military can be prosecuted in front of civilian courts. Ensure that the civilian authorities comply with their duty to investigate any wrongdoing by the armed forces, including command responsibility.

Mexico’s response: It is not feasible to consider further amendments to the Military Justice Code. Following constitutional reform on human rights in 2011, civilian authorities already have legal framework to consider violations committed by the military. In accordance with articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, any violation committed against a member of the armed forces can also be duly revised and brought before civilian tribunals.

4. Public security compliant with human rights: Adopt further measures to ensure that public security policies and operational instructions comply with international human rights standards and that effective accountability measures for violations committed by members of the armed forces are in place.

Mexico’s response: The citizen security approach to public safety through policies, such as the National Programme for the Social Prevention of Violence, will be ensured.

7. Registry of all arrests: Adopt a national law establishing unified registry of arrests and persons deprived of their liberty, including specific preventative measures to avoid arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances.

Mexico’s response: The confidential National Registry of Detainees (SIRED) within the Attorney General’s Office has been strengthened and consultations continue to ensure that all federal states use similar tools. The detention registries will continue improving in accordance with the legislation requiring immediate registration of detention of any person, including article 16(5) of the Mexican Constitution, the General Law for the National System of Public Safety, the Federal Code for Criminal Procedure, the National Code for Criminal Procedure and the criminal justice reform from 2008.

10. Inter-institutional high level mechanism: Strengthen the inter-institutional high-level mechanisms and the national human rights statistics system, created for monitoring the implementation of international and regional human rights standards and recommendations. Enable participation of civil society and stakeholders.

Mexico’s response: Strengthening of the existing mechanisms continues. The National Development Plan 2013-2018 and the National Human Rights Programme 2014-2018 prove the commitment to the implementation of human rights standards at all levels. Furthermore, close dialogue with civil society on human rights is maintained both domestically, through the Commission of Governmental Policy on Human Rights within the Ministry of Interior, and in foreign policy, through working groups and consultation processes to present reports before the treaty bodies.

12. Women’s public policies: Update, and make more accessible, the National Database for Information on Cases of Violence Against Women (BANAVIM).

Mexico’s response: The Sanction Committee of the National System for the Prevention, Attention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women is currently evaluating the efficacy of BANAVIM. The National Programme for Equal Opportunities and Non-Discrimination against Women 2014-2018, the Integral Programme to Prevent, Attend, Sanction and Eradicate Violence against Women 2014-2018 and the General Law to Guarantee Access of Women to a Life Free from Violence exemplify the awareness of the importance of eradicating violence against women.

14. General laws on torture and disappearances: Adopt the general laws on torture and disappearances, in accordance with international human rights standards and with the participation of victims and civil society in order to adequately integrate their views. Ensure their effective implementation at the federal and state levels, including by building the required capacities and allocating the necessary human and financial resources.

Mexico’s response: President Peña Nieto sent the draft General Law for the Prevention, Investigation and Prosecution of Offences of Torture and Other Cruel or Inhumane or Degrading Treatments and Punishment and the draft General Law for the Prevention and Prosecution of Offences related to the Disappearance of Persons to the Congress on 10 December 2015, with a view of harmonising the national legislation with international standards. Both are currently under consideration by the Congress, with the draft law on torture approved by the Senate on 29 April 2016.

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