IACHR PRESIDENT URGES INVESTIGATION INTO ACTS OF VIOLENCE IN OAXACA
Washington, D.C., August 16, 2007— At the invitation of the government of Mexico and the government of the state of Oaxaca, Dr. Florentín Meléndez, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Rapporteur for Mexico and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, conducted a visit to the state of Oaxaca from August 8 to 11. The purpose of the visit was primarily to gather information about the acts of violence that have occurred since 2006, in order to complement the information received during hearings held at IACHR headquarters in Washington, D.C. The IACHR thanks the state and federal authorities, as well as civil society organizations, for the cooperation provided during the visit.
The IACHR President notes that the situation taking place in the state of Oaxaca stems from circumstances and events of a structural nature that have affected basic rights of citizens, especially those of indigenous peoples, as evidenced in particular through impunity, inequity, social exclusion and racial discrimination. The IACHR has closely followed the situation in Oaxaca and has responded at different times with requests to the government for information and with precautionary measures to protect individuals at serious risk, among them social and indigenous leaders, journalists and human rights defenders. The IACHR has made public statements on this issue at various times, including press releases issued on October 31, 2006, and July 20, 2007. During its August 8-11 visit to Oaxaca, the IACHR received numerous reports of human rights violations. The Commission President therefore expresses his deep concern regarding the incidents of violence and human rights violations that have occurred recently in Oaxaca, which have seriously affected the rights of many individuals and have hampered the normal functioning of state institutions and society in general.
Between June and December 2006, and in July 2007, acts of intense violence took place in an environment of considerable polarization. The IACHR received denunciations of violent deaths, extrajudicial executions, torture, police brutality, disproportionate use of force, mass arrests, cases of individuals being held in solitary confinement and incommunicado, the use of snipers and tear gas, assaults on journalists, and public calls for attacks against human rights defenders and social leaders. Reports were also received about police who were held by demonstrators and beaten and injured; attacks using incendiary bombs or Molotov cocktails; and the destruction and burning of the judiciary headquarters and other buildings. According to the information received, public incitements to violence and attacks against the communications media also took place.
The IACHR President especially wishes to express his deep concern about information received regarding at least two disappeared persons, as well as several individuals who were killed, tortured or seriously injured. In this regard, the IACHR President strongly urges the government of the state of Oaxaca and the federal government to objectively and impartially investigate the human rights violations committed during the violent repression of public demonstrations, to make reparations to the victims and to ensure that none of the human rights violations goes unpunished. The IACHR President was also informed about the lack of an investigation in some cases and the delay in launching investigations in others. He thus underscores the importance for federal and state authorities, according to their jurisdictions, to move forward quickly in these investigations, clarify the truth and determine legal responsibilities. The IACHR President particularly urges the authorities to shed light as soon as possible on the whereabouts of Edmundo Reyes and Raymundo Rivera, whose disappearance was denounced publicly as well as reported to the IACHR by family members during the visit to Oaxaca. The IACHR President paid a visit, at the Hospital de Especialidades de Oaxaca, to Emeterio Marino Cruz, a bricklayer by trade, who is in a serious state of health as the result of the beating that he allegedly suffered at the hands of police officers right after he was arrested in July 2007. The IACHR trusts that this serious case will be investigated without delay, as the government of Oaxaca has committed to do, that those responsible will be identified and punished, and that full reparations will be ensured.
The Commission notes that the right to assembly and the right to freedom of expression give form to citizen participation and to the oversight of state actions on public matters. Therefore, the actions of state security forces in the context of public demonstrations should not discourage, but rather protect, the right to assembly. As a result, the act of dispersing a demonstration should have as its rationale the duty to protect people, and should be exercised with moderation and in proportion to the legitimate objective being pursued. That is to say, the degree of force exercised by the security forces must not exceed what is absolutely necessary, reducing to a minimum personal injury and the loss of human life.
The IACHR President urges the adoption of measures and policies designed to shed light on the violent incidents and human rights violations; to identify and punish those responsible in accordance with the law, all within the framework of due process; and to remedy the material and moral damages to victims.
Based on the powers and authority granted under Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission will prepare a report in the near future in which it will lay out more extensively its observations regarding its two visits to Mexico in 2007, as well as its conclusions and final recommendations. It will follow up on these during its future visits in order to verify that they have been complied with faithfully and completely. The IACHR reiterates its willingness, within its powers and authority, to cooperate with the authorities and civil society in Mexico, with the aim of helping to strengthen the defense and protection of human rights.
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