April 18, 2000

Fifty-sixth session
Agenda Item 17b: Human Rights Defenders

IED/HLP considers the Mexican Government's requisites and restrictions in obtaining the coveted FM3 visas for human rights defenders, an obstacle to human rights observation in Mexico and well outside of international norms.

Members of IED/HLP, must apply time and again at least 30 days in advance of a planned visit. This prevents us from responding to emergency situations like that of 17 year old Erika Garcia who was arrested as one of almost 1,000 students arrested between February 1st and February 6th, 2000 on the campus of the UNAM. Erika was brutally beaten and kicked between her legs by police resulting in vaginal hemorrhaging lasting several days. Despite petitions from Mexican NGO, Miguel Agustin PRODH, Erika was not allowed to be seen by outside physicians for one month. The prompt and adequate care in detention cases continues to be or paramount concern. In this instance Miguel Agustin PRODH and other Mexican NGOs were overwhelmed as the responded to many cases of police abuse in this Mexico City emergency and yet were unable to avail themselves of our presence given the government's restrictions on international human right defenders.

On August 22, 1999 a Mexican physician, Lidia Rangel of the Human Rights NGO, Enlace Civil, and two international observers was brutally beaten by paramilitary as they left La Realidad near Nuevo Momon Chiapas. When they came to the nearby military checkpoint, they were denied assistance.

In January of this year, most of the 43 foreigners cited by Mexican officials, were expelled for their presumed presence in the Zapatista community in Oventic, Chiapas. In testimony given us from the majority of these cited and expelled, they tell of being subjected to lengthy and often intimidating interrogations. Those cited were subsequently ordered to leave Mexico. Among them was Kerry Appel of the Human Bean Co. who was expelled for three years. Shortly thereafter, additional obstacles were added by the Department of Immigration, to the already excessively restrictive process in obtaining visas for human rights observations.