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New agreement on activities between Mexico and the UN Human Rights Office

Video message by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the signing ceremony

22 February 2017

Your Excellency Minister Videgaray,
President of the National Human Rights Commission Luis Raúl González,
Deputy Ministers, Senators, Members of the Chamber of Deputies,
Human Rights Defenders and representatives of Mexican civil society,

It is a great pleasure for me to address you on the occasion of the signature of the Agreement on Activities between the Government of Mexico and OHCHR Mexico.  I do regret not being able to be with you, today.

Mexico has long been a very active and reliable supporter of the human rights agenda on the international scene, and I would like to thank the Mexican Government for its initiatives and for the consistency of its support on many human rights issues.

At the same time, I am well aware of the fact that Mexico faces numerous human rights challenges at home. My Office here has been supporting the government, various state entities, and other national stakeholders tackle these challenges for the past 15 years. Indeed, I am proud to say that over these years, the office has strengthened the national human rights protection system by facilitating legislative reforms, the development of public policies, the empowerment of victims of human rights violations, in line with Mexico’s international and regional commitments.

I would like to emphasize that this work – sometimes critical, but always constructive – has been carried out in close cooperation with all three branches of the federal Government, as well as with the governments of individual states, the National Human Rights Commission and Mexico's committed human rights defenders. In cases where the positions of the Government and the civil society differed, my Office has often played a role of mediator and bridge-builder, and it is keen to continue doing so.

The new Agreement is thus built on previous achievements and represents a welcome step ahead in the cooperation between OHCHR and Mexico. As this Agreement comes into effect, my Office commits to support even more efforts at tackling impunity and ensuring accountability in line with recommendations Mexico received from the international/regional human rights mechanisms, including legislation and policies on disappearances and torture; prior, free and informed consultation and consent of indigenous populations; protection of human rights defenders and journalists; the use of human rights indicators; and improving access to justice and combatting impunity.

I would also like to express the Office's – and my personal – commitment to the resolution of emblematic cases, such as the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. I want to reiterate my unflinching support to the victims and their families, as well as our readiness to support all efforts so as to ensure the facts are established and justice is done, including the follow-up mechanism to the Interdisciplinary Group of International Experts.

The 14 recommendations which I addressed to Mexico and which were published last October, together with the Government's response are a good basis to address implementation gaps and ensure the protection of human rights in the country.

Finally, please allow me to mention one area which has recently come into particular focus – the rights of migrants including of unaccompanied children. As I have repeatedly observed, we are witnessing a very dangerous trend not only on the American continent but also in other parts of the world. Migrants are increasingly scapegoated, and those in irregular situations are being criminalised, detained and deported, often without due process. Families are being torn apart. Ever higher barriers to entry are being put in place to deter migrants, but we know that this only forces them into using more dangerous channels, putting their lives at an even greater risk. OHCHR is very concerned about this trend, particularly as it is transformed from mere rhetoric into actual policy.

I applaud the Mexican Government's efforts to provide increased support to Mexican migrants abroad by informing them about their rights. At the same time, I invite all States not only to protect their nationals, but also to review their own migration policies so as to make sure that they are based on relevant human rights norms. Countries that reject the vilification and stigmatization of migrants can and must do more and lead by example.

I hope that this Agreement becomes another important milestone in the longstanding successful cooperation between Mexico and my Office for the realization of all human rights and the effective protection especially of the most vulnerable groups in society.

Thank you for your attention.