Between 26 november and 4 december 2009, the Bar Human Rights Committee of england and Wales (BHRC) led a high-level international delegation of human rights lawyers to Mexico . Thirteen lawyers represented Canada, england and Wales, Germany, ireland and the united states of America .
The purpose of the delegation was to conduct an independent and impartial audit of the human rights situation in the Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca; in particular, to assess access to justice, respect for the rule of law, and the ability of lawyers and human rights defenders to exercise their vocation freely .
Human rights and the rule of law in Mexico have been violated by state authorities for many years by means including torture, police and military repression, rape, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings . Many of these human rights violations have not been adequately addressed, which has lead to serious implications of impunity and an increased use and reliance on the inter-American human rights system .The delegation was encouraged by the positive commitments of the Mexican Republic to uphold
international human rights standards . Mexico has frequently led the way in promoting human rights in a variety of international fora, including the united nations and Organization of American states, and has been open to international reviews of its human rights situation . the delegation was also encouraged by the positive commitments of Mexico to implement human rights policies at the
national level unfortunately, the climate of impunity in which these human rights abuses exist at the state and municipal level undermine these commendable efforts at the federal level .the delegation heard examples of a lack of harmonisation and cooperation between the 31 states and the federal district .this has fundamentally undermined such efforts and lead to an incongruity for human rights protection and promotion at the grassroots level . Where human rights violations are occurring at the state level and individuals are
not receiving adequate protection, intervention by federal officials is often a difficult and bureaucratic process, leaving a void for practical and effective protection of individual rights .Government officials and civil society actors alike unanimously agreed that trust and credibility in the Mexican criminal justice system, including access to justice for poor and marginalised sectors of society, is a fundamental concern undermining the rule of law in Guerrero and Oaxaca . failures across all levels of the criminal justice system have lead to impunity for human rights abuses, including a lack of competent, thorough, impartial and timely investigations into human rights violations . A lack of police accountability and an overly complex police system at municipal, state and federal levels exacerbate
such impunity, in addition to procedural failings of the justice system, including prolonged periods of precharge and pre-trial imprisonment, inadequate regard for due process within the trial system and a lack of indigenous language translation services . As such, the delegation welcomed the adoption of the 2008 Public Security and Criminal Justice Reform Programme which aims to streamline, modernise and further professionalise the justice system in all areas, and in particular to establish an accusatory, oral criminal trial system into Mexico that is based on the presumption of innocence .this key reform encourages more transparency and seeks to establish a more rights-based system in which the rights of the victim and the accused are equally respected . Recalling the rule of law – Mexico.
Recognising the need for Mexico to combat the narcotics trade, the delegation notes that the use of the military to achieve this has exposed the civilian population to an increased risk of serious human rights violations and impunity for military offenders .the use of military jurisdiction in cases of human rights abuses committed by members of the military against civilians has been widely criticised by national human rights defenders and lawyers, as well as the international community . the delegation hopes Mexico will implement the recommendations to adopt necessary legislative reforms to harmonise the Code of Military Justice with recognised international standards at the earliest opportunity and remove jurisdiction from the military justice system in cases of alleged human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces against the civilian population .
Mexican lawyers and human rights defenders continue to effectively and passionately advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable portions of the population .the delegation were encouraged and uplifted by the high level of professional skills, expertise and dedication demonstrated by the various lawyers, professional bodies, human rights defenders and civil society organisations it met in Guerrero, Oaxaca and Mexico City . As their work often forces them to challenge the status quo, they routinely face harassment and intimidation at the hands of the government or its agents, most commonly in the form of threats to their lives and physical health, consequently jeopardising the rule of law as well as efforts by the Mexican authorities to promote human rights .
As the situation in Guerrero and Oaxaca demonstrates, while it is clear that there are Mexican public institutions committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, a more cohesive approach with public institutions acting in concert needs to be adopted to achieve this end . the significant number of victims of human rights violations, human rights defenders and local lawyers in Guerrero and Oaxaca, for whose protection precautionary and provisional measures have been issued by the interAmerican Commission on Human Rights and inter-American Court of Human Rights, is evidence of the inability of state officials to effectively protect such individuals . inadequate implementation of these measures has disabled the proper functioning of human rights organisations identified as their intended beneficiaries, further hindering the realisation of human rights and access to justice in these states.