Mark Browne, CNS, December 19, 2017
Some $1.25 million in military aid to Mexico appears to be in jeopardy after the State Department did not certify that the government is prosecuting human rights violations, according to a U.S. senator.
The lack of a report to Congress triggers a 25 percent reduction in aid to the Mexican armed forces for this fiscal year, under the annual appropriations bill for the State Department and foreign operations, according to Tim Rieser, a spokesperson for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
The provision requiring the report applies only to Mexico and is a result of language authored by Leahy, Rieser said in an email. In a phone call Tuesday he declined to say if the funds have actually been withheld.
A copy of the provision provided by Leahy’s office states that the secretary of state must determine that the government of Mexico is “thoroughly and credibly investigating and prosecuting violations of human rights in civilian courts … vigorously enforcing prohibitions against torture and the use of testimony obtained through torture; and searching for the victims of forced disappearances and credibly investigating and prosecuting those responsible for such crimes.”
Leahy said in a statement he was “very disappointed that there has been no appreciable progress on human rights in Mexico, where torture of people in custody, impunity for abuses by security forces, and forced disappearances are widespread.”
“The Mexican Government should address these issues as an urgent priority; instead, the government seems to be incapable of or unwilling to do so,” he said.
“Over 33,000 people have disappeared in the last decade, the use of torture as an investigative technique and to obtain confessions is widespread, and security forces have extra judicially executed or unlawfully killed dozens of people in recent years, amid other abuses,” she [Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America] said in an email.
“There is no real progress on human rights in the country,” she said. “Impunity is the norm for human rights violations in Mexico.”
Edgar Cortez, an investigator with the Mexican Institute for Human Rights and Democracy, a citizens’ group, said there has been no “significant progress” on the human rights front in 2017.
He said the problem of forced disappearances has not abated, calling the number of cases “enormous” and “scandalous.”
The law on torture establishes a unified definition and sanctions for the crime, and requires the government to compile a registry of alleged cases and protocols for investigating them. Cortez noted that the registry has yet to be created.
The second law defines a forced disappearance, sets up a registry of cases and requires authorities to investigate immediately.