Mexican authorities fail to investigate Oaxaca abuses

In June 2006, widespread protests demanding the resignation of the State Governor erupted in Oaxaca State. Oaxaca City was brought to a standstill for several months. The political turmoil lasted into 2007 and provoked a prolonged public security crisis.

While most protests were peaceful, there were many violent clashes between sections of the opposition movement, the security forces and supporters of the local state government. At least 18 people died in disputed circumstances and scores of people were arbitrarily detained and held incommunicado.

There were numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment and of unfair trial proceedings and those seeking to defend and promote human rights were threatened and harassed. Some of these human rights violations were committed by police in civilian clothes and unidentified armed men operating with the apparent authorization, support or acquiescence of the state authorities.

Teachers, who began a strike in support of annual negotiations on pay and conditions in May 2006, and supporters of the protest movement were the principle victims of these abuses.

Officials and employees of state and municipal institutions are believed to be implicated in many of the abuses. The federal authorities have also been implicated in both perpetrating serious human rights violations and failing to take action to prevent or remedy the situation when human rights violations were reported.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths have not been clarified and virtually all those responsible have yet to be identified or made accountable. Amnesty International’s research indicates that the principle reason for this is that very few human rights violations have been promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated.

The failure to secure crime scenes, investigate complaints, ensure all appropriate forensic tests are undertaken, gather available witness evidence and ensure the reliability of evidence, has seriously limited and even jeopardised future investigations.

Although federal, state and municipal authorities have formally agreed to implement the recent National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) recommendation that allegations of abuses should be investigated; there is as yet no evidence of a determination on the part of these authorities to carry out effective investigations or to modify procedure and practice to prevent further violations.

Ensuring that impunity for human rights violations is not allowed to prevail is the best guarantee of preventing future abuses. It would also be a clear demonstration to Mexican society and to the international community that the government of President Felipe Calderón is committed to protecting, ensuring and fulfilling human rights.

Read more:

Mexico: Oaxaca – clamour for justice (Report, 31 July 2007)

Mexico: Ensuring justice, the only way forward in Oaxaca (Press Release, 01 August 2007)