UN questions Mexican Army's role in drug war
A United Nations report calls on the Mexican government to consider withdrawing the military from the streets amid a spike in human rights complaints.
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Mexican groups like the Human Rights Montaña Tlachinollan Center in an indigenous region of Guerrero applauded the UN statement. It remains to be seen if the UN's call for Army withdrawal will be echoed by other international organizations.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Mexico's drug war
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Shoot first. Ask later.
The UN report also cites human rights commission data showing that 11,333 Central and South American migrants passing through Mexico were kidnapped between April and September 2010 – and 8.9 percent of the kidnappings involved federal, state, and municipal police, and officials with the National Immigration Institute.
The massacre of 72 migrants in Mexico last August sparked an outcry from Central American countries that said the country was turning a blind eye to criminal rings. Several countries have since signed agreements with Mexico to coordinate protection of migrants. The UN human rights chief urged Mexico in January to investigate the disappearance of 40 other Central Americans.
The UN report says that charges against soldiers range from torturing detainees to engaging in enforced disappearances before handing suspects over to civic authorities. Media reports have testified to this, with a former Army general who now heads security in the violent northern city of Torreon recently admitting to shooting first and investigating later.
“Why interrogate them?” the general said in a March interview with local newspaper La Jornada. “The Army has security and intelligence, it doesn’t need information.”
But he also commends Mexico’s Congress for passing a constitutional reform this month – not yet signed into law – that may go further than any other legislation to protect rights in Mexico. It elevates international human rights accords to the level of constitutional articles, allows foreigners due process if they are expelled from the country, and defines civil liberties that cannot be derogated during a state of emergency, says Mr. Steinberg.
'Living a nightmare'
The Calderón administration says it is doing all it can to protect human rights while it battles ruthless traffickers, whose confrontations have led to 35,500 killings since 2006.
A joint statement Thursday by the Foreign and Interior Ministries said that the Army has accepted all recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission and that the government has set up a registry of missing persons. But, the statement adds, Mexico is “obligated” to use armed forces as temporary and complementary tools in specific regions due to the violence.
For some, these steps have come too late. Rosario Villanueva Rocha’s son disappeared after being arrested in 2009 in Coahuila. At least five municipal police have since confessed to robbing him and then handing him over to the feared Zetas gang. The officers said the Zetas killed him and three companions, according to Ms. Villanueva Rocha.
Nevertheless, she has not given up hope of finding her son alive.
“I took a step into hell, and I’m living the worst nightmare I could imagine,” she says. “My son has been hurt by authorities we are supposed to trust.”