Mexican democracy faces a defining moment. The crisis resulting from the forced disappearance and probable murder of 43 students in Iguala brought much needed attention to the endemic human rights abuses taking place out of sight from the international community. The government’s response to this crisis will define the nature of democracy in the country for decades to come.
In the face of continuing unanswered questions about the fate of the 43 students, the Mexican government’s response has been described as inadequate and slow, fueling continued unrest and anger. The Iguala crisis has also re-opened debate on the poor human rights record in the country and highlighted the heavy-handed response to those taking to the streets to demand justice for all the disappeared.
ARTICLE 19 urgently calls upon the Mexican State to comply with its obligation to protect and defend the human rights of every person under its jurisdiction, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful protest, association and assembly.
Under no circumstances should the State use violent acts by a small group of persons during demonstrations as a justification to for abuses and illegal detentions by the police. On the contrary, the State has a positive obligation under international law to protect the integrity and safety of demonstrators.
As such, we call upon all the police forces of the Mexican State to urgently undertake actions to guarantee and protect the rights of those participating, reporting or monitoring peaceful demonstrators.
Finally, we call upon the international community to continue to monitor the situation in the country and to hold the Mexican State accountable to its international human rights obligations.
Troubling history of abuses leads to protests
The Iguala case has shed light on the deep ties between organised crime local governments in some places in Mexico. At the same time the explanations offered by the Mexican State have called into question its capacity to conduct speedy and effective investigations in cases of grave human rights violations. This is reflective of the deep challenges the country faces in addressing the pattern of impunity prevailing in the justice system in Mexico, a pattern that has been highlighted by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights and United Nations Human Rights Council and Human Rights High Commissioner.
An outraged public demanding justice has taken to the streets throughout Mexico. They call not only for justice for the 43 missing students but also for the more than 22,000 missing persons since 2006 amid the so call “war against drugs.” To facilitate the public scrutiny and debate but above all to guarantee the access to justice of the victims and their families, the Mexican State must provide all information of public interest to address this serious human rights crisis.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Mexican State to uphold the right to truth regarding not only the forced disappearance of the 43 student in Guerrero, but also about other grave human rights violations.
ARTICLE 19 has witnessed and documented the increasing criminalization of the right to peaceful protests by legal, political and practical means, since President Enrique Peña’s election. During the last 50 days, the attacks against journalists and participants during demonstrations continue to highlight the worrying trend.
Incidents of attacks on journalists
On October 27th, a group of armed men later identified as agents of the Federal Prosecutor Office, intercepted a group of journalists driving to one of mass graves discovered near Iguala, where the student disappeared. A video released on the Internet showed the police agents pointing assault weapons directly at the vehicle without any probable cause and preventing their progress to the site. No investigation was opened or apologies offered by the authorities.
On November 12th, two reporters (Carlos Navarrete Rubio and Jesús Eduardo Guerrero Ramírez) were directly attacked by the police in the State capital of Guerrero, Chilpancingo amid a protest that turned violent. Pictures of the incident show excessive use of force by the state police and a police officer using a stone to attack the journalists.
During the past weeks, ARTICLE 19 has documented the cyber-attacks (DDoS) directed against three different news sites (Sinembargo.mx, Plumaslibres.com.mx and AGNVeracruz.com.mx ) reporting on the investigations of the 43 missing students and the protests that are taking place.
Incidents of attacks on demonstrators and bystanders
On November 8th, the local police of Mexico City arbitrarily arrested 18 persons after a group of unidentified men tried to burned the main entrance of the Presidential Palace immediately after a peaceful demonstration ended. One of the arrested citizens was Juan Francisco Manrique Huerta, who was recording the illegal and arbitrary arrests taking place. Without any formal charges or due process, the 18 persons that were arrested were held until next morning. ARTICLE 19 has pointed out repeatedly that these types of arrests have become systematic and widespread during the past 2 years in Mexico City.
The Mexico City Human Rights Commission have stated that the ill treatment, torture, fabrication of evidence and false accusations against victims of arbitrary arrest for documenting police actions in the public space is a “systematic pattern” within the Mexico City´s Public Security Secretary (Recommendation 11/2014).
On November 15th, a group of students were conducting an assembly in the campus of National Autonomous University of Mexico to deliberate over the actions to be take in the following days in solidarity with the missing students, when they detected the presence of two suspicious men latter identified as agents of the Mexico City Prosecutor Office. When they tried to ask what they were doing the two men ran away shooting a bystander and his dog. The Mexico City Prosecutor Office offered a specious explanation for the presence of these two agents during a weekend in the university campus.