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U.N. human rights commissioner urges Mexico to withdraw troops from streets

By
Andrew V. Pestano
The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights has urged Mexico to increase efforts to improve human rights and called for the withdrawal of the military from the country's streets -- replacing them with effective police. Pictured: Enrique Nieto, president of Mexico, addresses the 70th session of the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly held at the U.N. in New York City on September 28, 2015. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI
The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights has urged Mexico to increase efforts to improve human rights and called for the withdrawal of the military from the country's streets -- replacing them with effective police. Pictured: Enrique Nieto, president of Mexico, addresses the 70th session of the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly held at the U.N. in New York City on September 28, 2015. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

MEXICO CITY, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights has urged Mexico to increase efforts to improve human rights and called for the withdrawal of the military from the country's streets, replacing them with effective police.

During a visit to Mexico City, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein praised the Mexican government's recent efforts toward improving the lives of citizens; including constitutional amendments relating to transparency and access to public information; and combating corruption, disappearances and torture.

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But Hussein also highlighted Mexico's persisting problems. Official statistics show that 98 percent of crimes in Mexico are unsolved, the majority are never properly investigated.

More than 151,200 people were killed in Mexico between 2006 and 2015. At least 26,000 people are missing. In 2014, Mexico's military was placed under civilian jurisdiction to combat the growing concern and consequences of a police force often involved in corruption and often accused of colluding with drug-trafficking cartels.

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"Despite this progress towards building a solid human rights framework, my visit has been very sobering with regard to the daily realities for many millions of people here in Mexico," Hussein wrote in a statement. "Many of the people I have spoken to have painted a very bleak -- and consistent -- picture of a society that is wracked by high levels of insecurity, disappearances and killings, continuing harassment of human rights defenders and journalists, violence against women, and terrible abuses of migrants and refugees transiting the country on their way to the United States."

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Hussain has called for Mexico to create new general laws to address Mexico's "most pressing" human rights issues: enforced disappearances and torture.

The commissioner made multiple recommendations to the Mexican government, including:

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• Adopting a time frame for the withdrawal of the military from public security functions. • Strengthening the Attorney-General's Offices across Mexico to ensure human rights violations are properly investigated. • Strengthening the capacity of police to perform public security functions in accordance to human rights obligations, including the development of a legal framework on the use of force.

"The failure of the police, of the justice system to clarify the whereabouts of the victims and what happened to them, and above all of successive governments and the political system as a whole to stop these crimes is not just regrettable, it is deeply tragic," Hussain adds. "Tragic for the individuals involved, and tragic for the country as a whole... The international community is full of good will towards Mexico, but ultimately it is only Mexicans -- and especially Mexico's political class -- who can resolve these massive problems."

"I pray that this government can bind itself to a new sense of urgency in solving the enormous human rights challenges it faces, so that every citizen will judge it to be that government," Hussain concluded.

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