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GENEVA (14 December 2017) – UN experts* have called on Mexico to reject a draft law on internal security that is due to be voted on in the Senate today, warning that giving the armed forces a leading role in security matters could weaken the protection of human rights.
“We are concerned that the bill gives the armed forces a leadership and coordination role in certain circumstances, rather than limiting their role to aiding and assisting civilian authorities,” the experts said in a joint statement.
“The draft law does this in the absence of solid control mechanisms to ensure that operations are carried out with full respect for human rights.
“It does not provide adequate civil and judicial oversight of surveillance, and categorizes all information resulting from the application of the law as a matter of National Security, therefore excluding it from transparency laws and public scrutiny.
“The increased role of the armed forces without proper control systems and accountability may create the conditions for the repetition of human rights violations such as those committed since the armed forces were assigned a leading role in the fight against crime,” the experts said.
The draft law is ambiguous on certain points and contains a lax definition of the situations in which the authorities could use force, even in the context of protests, the group added.
“It is very alarming that such a far-reaching legislative initiative with such a profound potential impact on human rights is being carried out in such a hasty manner and without the proper involvement of victims of human rights violations, civil society organizations, national human rights institutions and international organizations,” the experts said, stressing their awareness of the enormous security challenges facing the country.
Any new security laws should stress the primary role of civilian authorities which have the primary responsibility to protect human rights by ensuring strict operational controls, the experts said. No civilian authority should relinquish this responsibility. Any new legislation should also provide for adequate training and strengthening of police forces, and prompt, independent and impartial investigation of all allegations of human rights violations.
The group of experts noted that United Nations mechanisms had been recommending for years that the armed forces should strictly limit their functions to their mission, and that there should be proper investigation of and punishment for members of the armed forces who had committed human rights violations, including numerous cases of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture, including sexual violence and other forms of ill-treatment.
In particular, the experts reminded the Government of a 2011 recommendation from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which called for the armed forces to be withdrawn from public security operations in view of the grave human rights abuses which had occurred elsewhere in Latin America when the armed forces had been involved in internal security, including the widespread and systematic practice of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and torture, most of which have gone unpunished.
The experts have been in recent contact with the Government of Mexico regarding the draft law, and appreciate the prompt reply to their concerns.
* The UN experts: the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Joe Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Michel Forst,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.