GENEVA / MEXICO CITY (5 December 2017) – Proposed legislation in Mexico that would enshrine the role of the armed forces in law enforcement is deeply worrying, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Tuesday.
“I fully recognize that Mexico faces a huge security challenge, given the violence and fear sown by powerful, organized crime groups. But more than a decade after the armed forces were deployed in the so-called war on drugs, violence has not abated and many human rights violations and abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances, continue to be committed by various State and non-State actors,” said Zeid.
The Law on Internal Security was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 30 November and has now been referred for debate and adoption in the Senate.
Zeid recalled that, during his visit to Mexico in 2015, the authorities said the initial deployment of the armed forces had been inevitable given the weakness of the various police forces, and had assured him of their commitment to gradually replace the armed forces with a stronger, better prepared police force, both at federal and individual State level. The current draft law does not refer in detail to the need to strengthen police institutions nor does it contain an exit strategy for gradually ending the use of the armed forces in law enforcement.
“Adopting a new legal framework to regulate the operations of the armed forces in internal security is not the answer. The current draft law risks weakening incentives for the civilian authorities to fully assume their law enforcement roles,” the High Commissioner said.
The draft law, as approved by the Chamber of Deputies, contains worrying elements, and would allow for civilian authorities to be under the command of the armed forces in some circumstances. The authorization of the engagement of the armed forces in law enforcement is not accompanied by adequate controls and oversight, and the legislation does not contain adequate assurances, in line with international human rights standards, against the unlawful, arbitrary or excessive use of force.
Zeid noted that in his recommendations to the Mexican Government following his visit, he had emphasized the need to promote a citizens’ security approach, to ensure that public security policies are carried out in line with international human rights standards, and to investigate alleged violations and guarantee accountability for violations.
“As my Office in Mexico has noted in a letter it has sent to the Senate, the proposed legislation is disturbingly ambiguous, with the risk that it may be implemented extensively and in an arbitrary manner. I am convinced that rather than pursuing the adoption of this law, there should be an open and inclusive discussion about the country’s security problems and their potential solutions, with the active participation of the National Commission for Human Rights, experts and Mexican civil society,” he said.
The High Commissioner reiterated that the UN Human Rights Office in Mexico is ready to provide technical assistance to strengthen the capacities of civilian authorities to face the serious security challenges in the country.
Concerns about the proposed law are shared by a wide range of institutions, organizations and individuals, Zeid noted, including the National Human Rights Commission, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UNICEF-Mexico, UN-WOMEN-Mexico, civil society and academics.
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