In November 2009, a high-level delegation facilitated and led by the BHRC visited the Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the rule of law.
The mission focused particularly on the situation relating to the protection of human rights defenders and lawyers, pre-trial and pre-charge detention and military jurisdiction. Members of the delegation included representatives of the Bar Council, the Law Society, Avocats Sans Frontières, as well as lawyers representing Canada, Germany and the USA.
Meetings were held with the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Attorney-General’s Office, the Supreme Court, the National Commission for Human Rights, and state and municipal officials in Guerrero and Oaxaca. The delegation also met with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the British Embassy, and local lawyers and human rights defenders in Mexico City, Guerrero and Oaxaca. While Mexico faces considerable challenges, including very serious problems with organised crime, insecurity, extensive poverty and social inequality, members of the delegation were encouraged by the positive commitments of the Mexican Republic to implement human rights policies. However, the delegation also found that cultural and institutional obstacles within the justice and public security systems are undermining the government’s ability to address human rights violations and impunity.
In July 2010, the BHRC launched the report ‘Recalling the Rule of Law: Report of the Lawyers’ Delegation to Mexico’ and the findings of the 2009 delegation at the House of Lords. The event was chaired by Lord Brennan, Labour Peer and Bar representative on the Council of the International Bar Association. The findings of the report were presented by BHRC Executive Committee members and delegation members Ajanta Kaza and Adam Hiddleston. Also on the panel were Santiago Aguirre, lawyer at the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre.
Follow-up BHRC Delegation 2011
Following the launch, the report was translated into Spanish and presented during a follow-up BHRC delegation to Mexico which took place in September 2011. The purpose of the second delegation was to audit and monitor developments in the protection of human rights defenders and rule of law in Guerrero and Oaxaca since the 2010 report findings and recommendations. The delegation was made up of Executive Committee members Ajanta Kaza and Adam Hiddleston, together with John Traversi and Joanne Cecil, members of the Bar of England and Wales. The delegation met with a significant number of federal and state-level authorities, including the Ministry of the Interior, Foreign Ministry, Attorney General’s Office, the National Commission of Human Rights and the Department of Pubic Security as well as numerous civil society organisations and human rights defenders.
The findings of the delegation were published in an Addendum report.
On Wednesday 7 November 2012, Jeremy Corbyn MP, the Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mexico, hosted the launch of the Bar Human Rights Committee report Addendum to “Recalling the Rule of Law 2010” at the House of Commons in London. The panel of speakers included the BHRC delegation of barristers Ajanta Kaza, John Traversi, Adam Hiddleston and Joanne Cecil, the well-known representatives of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) Daniel Joloy and Juan Carlos Gutierrez.
At the launch event, the delegation of barristers presented their report and commented upon their findings. While evidence of slow progress in relation to some of the human rights cases specifically cited in the original report from 2010 continues to be a focal point of concern, the delegation also commented upon some positive developments such as recent Supreme Court decisions that limit the applicability of military jurisdiction for cases involving civilians. Daniel Joloy offered an analysis of arraigo (extended preventive detention) in Mexico, which is believed to be in breach of a number of fundamental freedoms and in many cases linked to the practice of torture. Juan Carlos Gutierrez commented upon his recent submission before the UN Committee Against Torture, highlighting the fact that there has never been a conviction for torture in Mexico in spite of a great number of documented cases reported by human rights groups in recent years. The BHRC delegation of barristers closed the event by reaffirming their conviction to maintain their long-standing support to Mexico and to those working to defend and protect human rights there.