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“Right to life in Mexico: progress made but serious challenges remain,” warns UN expert on arbitrary executions

MEXICO / GENEVA (12 June 2014) – United Nations human rights expert Christof Heyns today warned that “violations of the right to life take place at an unacceptably high rate in Mexico.” Mr. Heyns urged the Mexican authorities to address the situation head on and put an end to impunity.

“The realization of the right to life is under serious threat in Mexico and addressing it should be a top national priority,” said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during the presentation of his final report on Mexico to the UN Human Rights Council, in which he puts forward 30 recommendations to ensure enhanced protection of the right to life in the country.

“A heavy-handed military approach is unlikely to improve the situation,” the independent expert stressed. “What is called for is systematic, holistic and comprehensive strengthening of the rule of law, a critical element of which is ensuring accountability for abuses.”

Talking to Mexican journalists in a press videoconference in Mexico City, Mr. Heyns welcomed the fact that Mexico has taken a number of positive initiatives to improve human rights, and significant constitutional reforms, among other institutional and policy improvements.

Nevertheless, he said, “violations of the right to life are a grave problem and impunity remains a serious concern at the individual and systemic levels. Impunity constitutes the Achilles heel of the current system”.

“The long-term solution to the problem of violence in Mexico lies in establishing a strong law enforcement system compliant with international standards on the right to life and other fundamental human rights,” the expert said, noting that various levels of government and civil society have shown broad agreement on this issue.

“The need to achieve this goal as soon as possible should be the guiding star of all policy and other reforms,” the human rights expert emphasized.

Mr. Heyns noted that challenges to the protection of the right to life in Mexico are due, among other things, to deficiencies in the legal system, increased organized crime activity and drug trafficking, unwillingness or lack of capacity of police and prosecutors to investigate, distrust in the judicial system by citizenry, and lack of accountability for violations.

The Special Rapporteur drew particular attention to the importance of ending impunity and of establishing clear and widely-known standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials at all levels of government. However, he stressed the fact that “it is equally important to ensure accountability for the violations of the right to life that have taken place in the past.”

Mr. Heyns announced that he will follow up the implementation of his detailed recommendations, and offered his technical assistance and cooperation to improve the protection of the right to life in the country.

During his first visit to Mexico, from 22 April to 2 May 2013, the human rights expert met with Government officials, judges, members of civil society and victims in Mexico City, and the states of Chihuahua, Guerrero, and Nuevo Leon.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session26/Pages/ListReports.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Mexico: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/MXIndex.aspx

For media requests, please contact:
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In Geneva: Brenda Vukovic (bvukovic@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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