HLP supports DeFazio Resolution on Mexico
Dear Colleague:

Ever since the brief 1994 armed Zapatista uprising in Mexico, the Mexican government has been waging a low-intensity war against its indigenous communities, particularly in the southern states of Chiapas and Guerrero.

The role of international human rights observers, including many Americans, has been critical in the effort to document abuses of power and violations of international human rights treaties to which Mexico is a signatory.

Unfortunately, Mexico has made it increasingly difficult for human rights observers and other foreigners to travel freely within the country to do their work. The State Department Human Rights report on Mexico released earlier this year noted, "Continued serious abuses include...assaults, harassment, and threats against human rights monitors." The presence of international observers makes a difference by reducing and deterring violence. In fact, there has not been a single extrajudicial murder in Chiapas since 1994 in indigenous communities where foreign human rights observers have been present.

Most recently, Mexico has been harassing international election monitors who are accredited by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the independent Mexican election body. These monitors are needed to ensure the integrity of the electoral process taking place in Mexico this summer. Mexico has a history of political violence, vote-buying, and media manipulation. These barriers to the democratic process could easily take place again, particularly given the extremely tight presidential race. The barriers the Mexican government has been putting up against international election observers are, as Jaime Cardenas, a board member of the IFE said, "worrying on democratic grounds." He went on to confirm, government agencies "are putting up obstacles to our work."

I would like to invite you to become an original cosponsor of a resolution I intend to introduce condemning the repression of foreigner observers in Mexico. For your reference, I have copied the text of the resolution on the reverse side of this letter.

Please contact me or Tom Vinson of my staff (5-6416) if you would like to be an original cosponsor.


Member of Congress

Expressing the Sense of Congress with regard to political repression of foreign observers in Mexico

WHEREAS Mexico has ratified 45 international agreements on human rights, including -

(1) the United Nations' six principal agreements on Human Rights -
(A) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
(B) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
(C) the Convention against Torture,
(D) the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
(E) the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women,
(F) the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

(2) the two principals of the OAS -
(A) the American Convention on Human Rights,
(B) the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the material of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights known as the "San Salvador Protocol".

WHEREAS U.N. Rapporteur, Asma Jahangir, stated in a February 9, 2000, press interview regarding Mexico, "Although the problem of extrajudicial executions and impunity may be more notorious in Guerrero and Chiapas, it exists throughout the country.";

WHEREAS state-sponsored political violence in southern Mexico has been characterized by both constant repression and sporadic outbursts of bloodshed, including the torture and execution of -

(1) 8 indigenous people in Chabajeval and Union Progreso, El Bosque, Chiapas on June 19, 1998;
(2) 11 indigenous people in El Charco, Guerrero on June 7, 1998;
(3) 45 indigenous people, mostly women and children, in Acteal on December 22, 1997;
(4) 17 indigenous people in Aguas Blancas, Guerrero on June 18, 1995;

WHEREAS despite government claims to the contrary, the systemic abuses that led to the massacres of Acteal, Aguas Blancas, El Charco and El Bosque remain judicially unresolved in as much as those in positions of command responsibility are still at large;

WHEREAS systemic gross human rights violations continue, including most recently, the murders of one on January 13, 2000, and three other indigenous people on February 2, 2000, from the community of Chabajeval in El Bosque;

WHEREAS displaced, war refugees in Chiapas total more than 20,000;

WHEREAS the harassment, kidnaping, torture, imprisonment and murder of Mexican human rights defenders continues;

WHEREAS it is internationally accepted that the presence of human rights observers serves to deter violence and reduce its severity against civilian populations;

WHEREAS the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution on August 20, 1998, expressing concern that "developments in the human rights situation in Mexico are becoming more and more disturbing, particularly as far as the indigenous populations are concerned";

WHEREAS the U.N. Sub-commission requested that Mexican authorities "ensure full respect for the international instruments to which Mexico is party", including attaching the highest priority "to promoting the action of human rights defenders and guaranteeing their safety";

WHEREAS the 1999 edition of the State Department Human Rights Report on Mexico notes "continued serious abuses include...assaults, harassment, and threats against human rights monitors";

WHEREAS foreign observers in southern Mexico are present in indigenous communities at the invitation of those communities and local non-governmental human rights and civic organizations;

WHEREAS since 1995 the Mexican government has expelled over 400 foreigners from Chiapas, Mexico alone, mainly because of their involvement in human rights observation;

WHEREAS a Mexican Supreme Court decision of September 1999, found the National Institute of Immigration's deportation of the Director of the Mexico Solidarity Network, Tom Hansen, to be illegal, in defiance of which the National Institute of Immigration subsequently re-expelled Mr. Hansen in abstentia;

WHEREAS the Inter-American Court ruled the expulsion of Father Loren Riebe - deported June 22, 1995 - who had spent thirty years serving in the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas, to be illegal in a decision that the Mexican government refuses to recognize despite its earlier commitment to abide by it;

WHEREAS other cases in judicial review include those of -
(1) Travis Loller who was sexually assaulted by police in the course of her deportation on April 10, 1998;
(2) Peter Brown, director of the Schools for Chiapas, who was deported on July 24, 1998; and
(3) Kerry Appel, Director of the Human Bean Co. expelled in January, 2000;

WHEREAS 43 foreigners were cited and most expelled in January, 2000, for visiting the indigenous community of Oventic;

WHEREAS in 1998 the National Institute of Immigration of Mexico implemented severe restrictions that prevent effective human rights observation in southern Mexico;

WHEREAS in January of this year, the National Institute of Immigration implemented additional restrictions on access to visas, including for human rights observation and other unspecified activities, outside of internationally established norms;

Now, therefore be it resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that the Congress -

(1) strongly encourages the Mexican government to facilitate the presence of foreign human rights observers in Mexico without restrictions that prevent these observers from effectively carrying out human rights observation;

(2) urges the Department of State and the United States Embassy in Mexico to clarify with Mexican authorities current law concerning human rights observers, entrance requirements and restrictions on those observers' activities and movements;

(3) urges the Mexican government to respect internationally established norms for freedom of transit and freedom of association for foreigners visiting Mexico; and

(4) urges the Mexican government, in light of the concerns expressed in this concurrent resolution, to review all of the expulsions of human rights workers since 1994, for the purposes of clarity, consistency, and resolution of outstanding cases.