Mexico / Arbitrary executions: opportunities for change, important issues to solve

MEXICO / GENEVA (3 May 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns urged the Mexican Government to strengthen the country’s structure for protecting human rights in general and the right to life in particular in order to reduce the need for a resort to the use of force. Mr. Heyns also recommended reducing the involvement of the military in policing.

“There seems to be wide agreement among various levels of Government and civil society that the long term solution to the problem of violence in Mexico lies in establishing a strong law enforcement system compliant with international standards surrounding the right to life,” the expert said* at the end of his official eleven-day visit to the country.

“The need to achieve this goal as soon as possible should be the guiding star of all policy and other reforms,” he stressed. Mr. Heyns is the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions worldwide.

The UN Special Rapporteur said that his visit comes at a fitting time in the history of Mexico. “A number of initiatives that are aimed at moving the country from relying on the military for internal security have either been announced or are already in the process of implementation,” he said.

“There is no easy fix, but a slow and steady commitment to strengthening the role of the human rights framework in Mexico is the only long term solution,” the independent expert underscored. “The policies that have been announced should be fully implemented. The involvement of members of civil society in this process is crucial.”

“Particularly important in my view would be to decrease the involvement of the military in policing; provide that civil and not military courts will try members of the military who are accused of having committed human rights violations, including homicide against civilians; and establish clear and widely known standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur drew special attention to the issue of ending impunity. “Each and every loss of life should be investigated with the same rigor. And each and every perpetrator should be apprehended and tried. Pursuing this objective will serve not only to decrease impunity, but to restore the value that society attaches to life,” he stressed.

Mr. Heyns also outlined areas of potential cooperation with other Central American countries. By making genetic and fingerprinting and other databases available to each other, using technology, and independent forensic expertise, these States will reduce the need to rely on force to curb crime.

During his visit to Mexico, from 22 April to 2 May, the human rights expert met with Government officials, judges, members of civil society and victims in Mexico City, and the states of Chihuahua, Guerrero, and Nuevo Leon.

Mr. Heyns commended the authorities for having invited him to look into the issue of unlawful killings which has, during the last couple of years, presented well-documented challenges in Mexico. “The Mexican Government is highly engaged with the international human rights system, and the officials I met were very willing to discuss all the issues in a frank and open manner,” he said.

“The international community is ready to work in partnership with Mexico to ensure a greater protection for the right to life – the precondition for the exercise of all other rights,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Mr. Heyns’ research interests include international human rights law and human rights law in Africa. Learn more, log on to:

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