[Source: Amnesty International USA]
SIPAZ recently conducted an interview with Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, director of the Agustín Juarez Pro Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh) in Mexico City, on the topic of human rights with regard to the Merida Initiative. He spoke at length on Centro Prodh’s belief that the subject of human rights should be “a core theme” within the Merida Initiative negotiations. However, Arriaga stated that there is indeed a lack of human rights language in the plan. Centro Prodh’s stance is that there should be included the “creation of a mechanism between government authorities and the civil society, including NGO’s that specialize in human rights, in order to implement the Merida Initiative with higher standards of protection” for fundamental guarantees.
Arriaga pointed out the findings in a recent study published by Centro Prodh on human rights violations perpetrated by military personnel. One disturbing discovery uncovered in the report is the statistic that shows that the majority of the victims of human rights violations due to military actions were women and minors. He stated the importance of trying military personnel in civil courts as opposed to military tribunals, where civilian victims have little or no access to justice.
As a response Centro Prodh has dedicated itself to monitoring the human rights situation as the Merida Initiative is implemented not only in terms of the Mexican government but in regards to the US government as well. As the initiative comes closer to being carried out on the ground in Mexico, Arriaga noted that the fight “against organized crime has seen the serious violation of fundamental human rights.”
In a similar interview, Edgar Cortez, Executive Secretary of the National Network of Civil Organizations for Human Rights ‘All Rights for All’ (Red TDT), spoke of the questions surrounding the Merida Initiative as it seems to “maintain the strategy of the federal government with consequences that it implies.” That strategy, according to Cortez, is one of a lack of respect for human rights. Cortez emphasized that as Mexico and the United States work to harmonize “their policies on drug trafficking they need to initiate this cooperation with a clear series of mechanisms that ensure that they do not encourage, or encourage as little as possible the use of these resources in this strategy of repression and violation of human rights, in which the army has been involved.”
Like Centro Prodh, Cortez advocated an external mechanism (non-governmental) for the insurance of human rights protections. He voiced concern that the current talk of human rights provisions in the initiative is just that, talk. In addition he pointed out that the democratic clause in the General Agreement between Mexico and the European Union “has no concrete mechanisms” resulting in “good intentions but does not positively influence the protection of human rights.”
To hear both interviews in their entirety (in Spanish) click on the link below:
More information in Spanish: