COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Agenda item No. 16a
Joint Statement by Franciscans International, Pax Romana and International
Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project
Delivered by Diana Rodriguez
Thank you Madame Chairperson and Members of the Commission.
We wish to draw the Commission's attention to resolution 1998/4 of the
Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
Minorities, regarding developments in the situation in Mexico.
In this resolution, the Sub-Commission requests the Mexican authorities to
attach the highest priority to:
First, "combating the impunity of perpetrators of serious human rights
violations, especially those suffered by numerous members of the indigenous
Since this resolution was made, the Mexican government has, in fact, taken
important steps in the opposite direction. Earlier this year the Governor
of Chiapas introduced his "Comprehensive Disarmament Act." This law, by
granting amnesty, as well as agrarian credits, for those persons handing in
weapons, ensures that members of paramilitary groups responsible for such
heinous crimes as the massacres of Acteal and El Bosque, will continue to
benefit from inpunity.
The grave human rights abuses against indigenous peoples in Mexico, which
provoked the resolution of the Sub-Commission, continue unabated. During
this session of the Commission on Human Rights, the Mexican authorities
have launched three operations against indigenous communities in the state
On the 7th of April, 300 police officers and supporters of the governing
party siezed the municipality of San Andres, which has been self-governed
by indigenous peoples (in accordance with ILO Convention 169) since 1995.
On the 10th and 11th of April, the Federal Army conducted operations in the
communities of Tila and Sabanilla, allegedly to search for two unlicensed
firearms. These operations, described by community members as
"provocations," resulted in the arbitrary detention of five youths. To our
knowledge they remain in detention as we speak.
On the 13th of April, heavily armed soldiers entered a camp of internally
displaced indigenous persons in Polho, harassing and intimidating men,
women and children gathered there.
The second request of the Sub-Commission was that the Mexican authorities
should promote "the action of human rights defenders and guarantee their
Three days ago, the office of one of our Mexican colleagues, present here
today, was attacked. The indigenous organization he represents was evicted
from the premises they have occupied for the past six years in Oaxaca
The Director of a second human rights organization in the same state of
Oaxaca, is currently threatened with death for his involvement in the
defence of 300 citizens who had been detained for their involvement in
protests at electoral fraud in the municipality of Santiago Itayutla late
Furthermore, international human rights observers continue to face
deportation or rejection of visas to enter the country on the premise of an
archaic constitutional article which dictates that the President can expel
any foreigner he deems inconvenient, and without a prior hearing.
The third request made by the Sub-Commission is that the parties to the
conflict in Chiapas "resume the process favouring dialogue."
In its intervention at this Commission meeting under item 11, the Mexican
government alluded to its political will to find a peaceful soltion to the
conflict, by describing the consultation with civil society organised by
the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, the EZLN. The Government
delegate spoke of the "unrestricted freedom of movement, association and
expression throughout the country" enjoyed by the EZLN representatives, and
stated that "Not in all parts of the world can similar cases of respect,
freedom and tolerance in the absence of peace accords be witnessed."
The delegate overlooked several important events. EZLN representatives
were detained as they attempted to participate in the consultation in the
state of Jalisco. In the states of Durango and Guerrero, representatives
faced harassment and death threats.
Neither does the Mexican Government's insistence on its desire for a
negotiated peace sit well with the facts of the military machinery in place
in the conflict zone. Following the Acteal massacre of 45 indigenous men,
women and children in December 1997, which galvanised international concern
for the human rights situation in Mexico, 5000 military officers were
deployed to the Chiapas region, adding to the already 70,000-strong
presence. In this region, which is predominately indigenous, there is one
soldier for every three inhabitants.
Finally, the Sub-Commission "Requests the Commission on Human Rights, in
the interest of prevention, to consider at its next session the
developments in the human rights situation in Mexico..."
We ask the Commission to respond seriously and urgently to this
recommendation of the Sub-Commission. Action must be taken now to avoid a
dramatic downturn in the respect shown for human rights in Mexico.
Clearly, the most appropriate measure for the Commission to take is to
appoint a Special Rapporteur on Mexico. At the very least, this 55th
Session of the Commission should receive a public confirmation of dates of
invitations to relevant special procedures to visit Mexico.
Thank you for your attention.