Concern about the campaign of defamation against members of human rights organizations and victims of human rights organizations in Mexico

17/03/2016
Open Letter
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Open Letter to President Enrique Peña Nieto

17 March 2016

President Enrique Peña Nieto,

The signatory organizations most respectfully write to you to express our profound preoccupation about the discrediting campaign that we are currently facing as members of human rights organizations that support victims of human rights violations in Mexico. Besides, we would like to express our acute concern about acts of defamation and criminalization committed against victims of torture, especially the victims of the case known as “Four Civilians of Rosarito”.

In relation to the victims of this case, on March 8th 2016, Mr. Héctor de Mauleón, in an article in the newspaper ‘El Universal’, with the title “He kidnapped, he fled, and he received reparations”, he questions their status as victims and criticizes the fact that they received reparations, reaffirming their participation in multiple homicides, disappearances, decapitations and kidnappings. This incident is not an isolated case, as we are aware of a number of other episodes of disqualification, particularly in the months after the decision of the Committee Against Torture.

On March 4th, on Radio Formula station 104.1 FM, in the program “Ciro Gómez in the morning”, Ms. Isabel Miranda de Wallace, President of the association “Stop Kidnapping (“Alto al Secuestro”) used the case “Four Civilians of Rosarito” to denounce a ‘modus operandi’. Within this system, human rights organizations supposedly defend previously convicted kidnappers to earn money and receive abundant reparations. The accusation was especially directed against Mr. José Antonio Guevara, director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), allegedly working within a “network of corruption that uses torture to make money”, together with other organizations such as the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and with the support of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan Mendez. In the same vein, other articles were recently published in which the Directors and Ex-Directors of the CMDPDH were qualified as “human rights mercenaries” or “defenders of criminals”.

As signatory organizations, we express our solidarity and highest respect toward the work of Mr. José Antonio Guevara, the CMDPDH, and CEJIL. Furthermore we support the public declaration by the CMDPDH, which clarifies the accusations and information published in the above-mentioned radio program.

We fear that the repetition of public declarations aimed at discrediting the victims and the human rights movement, including civil society organizations and international mechanisms, form part of a larger campaign to criminalize such actors. This campaign aims to de-legitimize their work in the defense of human rights and question imperative international standards, such as the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

These declarations occur in a preoccupying context, on the one hand, because of the inaction of the government in the face of these statements; and on the other hand, because of the disqualification of international human rights bodies undertaken by the Mexican authorities.
On March 2nd 2016, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) published its report on the “Human Rights Situation in Mexico”, as a result of its visit in September-October 2015. The report confirms the serious human rights crisis occurring in Mexico, with particular emphasis on widespread instances of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture. In a press release signed by the Ministry of Foreign Relations (SRE), the Ministry of Interior (SEGOB) and the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), the Mexican government discredited the methodology as well as the diagnosis of the report.

During that same week, on February 29th 2016, Mr. Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Sub-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, openly questioned the rigor and objectivity of the work of the UN mechanisms in the opening of the 31st period of sessions of the Human Rights Council. It is important to note that, in 2015, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on Torture published reports urging the Mexican authorities to adopt a broad set of measures to face the grave human rights situation taking place in the country.

Similarly, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IGIE), designated by the IACHR in order to provide technical assistance in the search of the 43 missing students of the “Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa” (Guerrero), was subject to a wave of disqualifications and declarations against its members during the process of clarifying the facts of the event.

Mr. President, we would like to remind you that, in 2014, the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was notified, at the federal level, of almost six daily cases of persons that denounced acts of torture. In the recently published report by the IACHR, it is stated that “within Mexico the practice of torture is alarming”. It highlights that “the Mexican State informed that the PGR, in April 2015, undertook 2,420 investigations cases of torture, and only 15 cases reached a court conviction at a federal level”. Between 2006 and 2015, The National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) received more than 9,200 complaints for torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The signatory organisations are extremely worried about the emerging pattern of disqualification in which the Mexican government de-legitimizes each report or declaration by international mechanisms that identify grave human rights violations taking place in Mexico. These reactions reveal the stigmatization of the Mexican government towards victims and human rights activists.

Within this context, we urge the Mexican government:

- To take the measures required to confront the current grave human rights crisis, observing and implementing the decisions and recommendations by international expert bodies. The Mexican State must take into account its international obligations due to the ratification of international human rights agreements. In the same context, it is recommended that, this year, the government accepts the official visits proposed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and on the situation of the human rights defenders.

- To guarantee, in particular in the case of “the four civilians of Rosarito”, the recognition and legitimization of the victims. We urge the government to take the necessary measures to protect the victims from attacks, or accusations that question their innocence and expose them to victimization. These actions are outlined by the recommendations by the Committee Against Torture which oblige the Mexican authorities to fully implement reparations for the victims, including adequate compensation and their rehabilitation;

- To publicly recognise the legitimacy and value of the work of the CMDPDH and human rights organisations in general that work towards promoting rights of victims, in accordance with the First Article of the Constitution. Mr. President, the signatory organizations trust in your firm commitment to human rights and we urge your government to publicly condemn those acts of defamation and slander that have been afore mentioned in this letter as well as any other action against victims and human rights activists in Mexico.

Dear Mr. President, we appreciate your attention and response.
Respectfully,

Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France)
Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

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