Cablegate: Mexico: Building an Effective Human Rights

DE RUEHME #3627/01 3572252
R 232252Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

B. MEXICO 3443
C. MEXICO 3455
D. MEXICO 3501

1. (SBU) Summary: The Country Team is working on three
coordinated tracks on a human rights engagement strategy that
will enhance our ability to work more closely with the GOM
and the Mexican military; establish a regular working
dialogue with the human rights community; and support the
work of civic participation groups in building a national
consensus against violence and criminality. This cable
updates our progress on each of the three tracks. End summary.

State of Play

2. (SBU) Through our dialogue with the NGO community we have
identified four priority areas that will help guide our
efforts: investigation and prosecution of alleged violations;
transparency and accountability mechanisms; improvement of
GOM-NGO dialogue and safety assurances for victims and
advocates; and benchmarks for tracking progress. These
priorities have been shared with the SRE and will be
incorporated into the agenda of a new bilateral dialogue on
human rights. Draft diplomatic notes have been exchanged,
and we expect to finalize them in January to create a
U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue.

3. (SBU) Listed below is the state of play in each category.
More detail is provided in subsequent sections.

-- Government and Military: In October, the Foreign
Relations Secretariat (SRE) formally communicated the GOM's
willingness to begin a new bilateral dialogue on human rights
that would include the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA)
and various key ministries. We accepted that offer in
principle, but suggested some enhancements (see below) that
would strengthen the initiative. SRE Undersecretaries Gomez
Robledo (Human Rights) and Ventura (North America) asked for
an opportunity to review our proposal before we delivered it
through formal channels. Deputy Secretary Lew raised the
issue during his November 23 visit, and we expect a response
early in January. Meanwhile, we are working with NORTHCOM on
its engagement strategy on human rights with the military, a
key element for the bilateral dialogue once we begin.

-- Human Rights NGO Community: Since our initial meeting in
September (ref A), we held a second meeting to hear ideas
for enhancing transparency, supporting victims and
safeguarding advocates. The follow-up meeting led us to focus
on specific initiatives, such as encouraging the National
Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) to review and report on
victim assistance and protection by the GOM. We have met with
the new CNDH President, Raul Plascencia (septel), and with
some key political insiders to explore some ideas; the
Ambassador will follow up with Plascencia and with various
leaders in the Congress early in 2010 to see how we can move
forward on them.

-- Civic Participation Groups: Finally, we continue our close
collaboration with civic participation and new media groups
on ways to build support for a national campaign against
violence and crime. This effort will require the release of
approved funds by International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
(INL) to USAID if we are to sustain our efforts and advance
Mexico's overall human rights progress.

--------------------------------------------- --
Track One: Cooperation with GOM on Human Rights
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) We are currently waiting for the SRE's comments on
our suggested enhancements, provided in late November, to its
formal offer of a new bilateral working dialogue on human
rights. The Foreign Ministry's offer proposed three meetings
a year for a new dialogue to include SRE, SEDENA, Secretariat
of Governance (SEGOB), and eventually "other agencies of the
Mexican government." SRE also proposed including the UN
Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and

MEXICO 00003627 002 OF 006

the International Red Cross, if relevant to the issues being
raised. The Ambassador suggested that the agenda specifically
include the four priority areas (para. 2). We also proposed
to clarify that informal meetings could take place between
formal sessions, and that the human rights dialogue would
complement discussions in the bilateral defense working group
set to begin in February. The latter was proposed in
connection with recent senior military and defense visits to
Mexico and Washington, with the purpose of engaging on
bilateral defense matters, including human rights issues. The
Ambassador also suggested that we include the Mexican Navy
(SEMAR) in the dialogue and establish a channel between DOD
and SEDENA lawyers to strengthen the military justice system
and its autonomy, as well as include more human rights in
military training.

5. (SBU) Gomez Robledo said that SEDENA had come a long way
in terms of its willingness to engage on human rights, but
progress had been the result of a slow and painstaking
effort. Going too fast could cause the military to hunker
down and resist the modernization that we are looking for.
The Ambassador noted SEDENA chief Galvan's request to
Northcom Commander Renuart for a JAG training program, and
similar discussions during the visit of Deputy Undersecretary
Stockton related to the defense bilateral working group.

Ambassador to SRE: Need a Systematic Approach

6.(SBU) The Ambassador noted the need for a systematic
approach that would help respond to the issue of specific
violations. There were several lists of alleged cases that
were circulating among NGOs and in Congress but no organized
effort on the steps that were being taken to respond. A
senior Human Rights Watch official from Washington recently
shared his ongoing efforts with SEGOB Minister Gomez Mont to
identify some illustrative cases involving violations that
had been handled appropriately in the Mexican military
justice system. Of the 12 that were identified, eight
predated the Calderon administration, three were clearly not
human rights cases, and one that was alleged to be
illustrative was a civil traffic accident. This list of
violations and investigations for the Calderon Administration
was not convincing. A better understanding of the military
justice system, a better understanding of how to respond to
legitimate questions on specific cases, a better dialogue
with NGOs, and some criteria to evaluate progress in the
future would help provide more transparency and parameters
for future discussions.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
USG Visits Press the Need for Action -- NORTHCOM Strategy
--------------------------------------------- ------------

7. (SBU) Deputy Secretary Lew, Undersecretary Otero and
Assistant Secretary Valenzuela also raised the importance of
moving forward on the human rights front during their visits
to Mexico (refs B-D), a critical reinforcement from
Washington that has helped strengthen our message on the need
to move forward quickly on the bilateral working group. In
the interim, senior visitors from NORTHCOM and DOD have also
contributed in their discussions with SEDENA and SEMAR. We
are working closely with NORTHCOM to finalize an integrated
engagement strategy for the Mexican military on human rights.
The Ambassador met with General Stutzriem during his visit
to Mexico in mid-December to review a draft program that
would combine institutional instructions with appropriate
soldiering and field training, and offer feedback mechanisms
for measuring impact. The Ambassador suggested fine-tuning
the strategy to ensure that it would provide the appropriate
ground-level training on the specific challenges currently
facing the GOM military in the fight against the DTOs. The
goal is a comprehensive and sustainable program to help
SEDENA modernize and integrate its current military mission
on the border with ongoing legal and civilian efforts that
prosecute criminal organizations. Unfortunately, the UN's
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico
(OHCHR) continues to face obstacles in drawing down the $1
million Congress earmarked for it to provide human rights
training to SEDENA and SEMAR due to the Department's legal

MEXICO 00003627 003 OF 006

interpretation of restrictions on using ESF to work with
military officials.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Track Two: Working Dialogue with Human Rights NGOs
--------------------------------------------- -----

8. (SBU) After the Ambassador's initial meeting with human
rights NGOs in September (ref A), we worked with all of the
groups (full list of participants is at para 16) to
streamline multiple priorities down to four areas. In
parallel, we also sought the SRE's senior level response
through informal channels. As SRE registered no objection to
the list, we incorporated it into our human rights strategic
framework (para. 4-6 above) and used these points for the
Ambassador's second meeting with the NGOs. Several NGOs
presented their ideas and reactions to the list during the
discussion. The priority areas as shared in writing with the
NGO reps are as follows:

-- Improving mechanisms within the civilian and military
justice system for identifying, investigating, and
prosecuting human rights abuses committed by the police and
the military.

-- Improving transparency and accountability in the
government's response to and treatment of human rights cases.

-- Building trust and strengthening dialogue between the GOM
and NGOs to reduce hostility, harassment and threats against
those filing complaints of human rights abuses.

-- Identifying benchmarks and joint GOM-NGO mechanisms to
track and measure progress on human rights commitments and

The tone of the November 19 meeting was critical of the human
rights situation in Mexico, particularly on issues related to
the military justice system, but constructive in searching
for solutions. Some in the group welcomed the commitment of
CNDH President Raul Plascencia to strengthen the organization
and improve relations with the NGO community, but there was
repeated criticism of the Commission's weak support for and
limited assistance to alleged victims, notwithstanding a
legal mandate to do much more.

Investigating and Prosecuting Abuses

9. (SBU) The Ambassador reviewed recent developments,
including Mexico's proposal for a new bilateral human rights
forum, its agreement to a defense-defense working group, and
efforts at NORTHCOM to develop a comprehensive program that
would help strengthen and expand human rights training for
the Mexican military. NGO representatives expressed concern
about impunity for abuses committed by the military, noting
numerous cases in which the military was hiding behind the
military's tribunal or "fuero militar" and arguing that the
military should not preside over cases involving civilians.
While some conceded that it would be unrealistic to expect a
shift from military to civilian courts on these cases, others
called for an open discussion of the challenges facing the
military and an examination of military training. The
Ambassador noted U.S. efforts to improve transparency in
military tribunals and training to improve coordination with
civil and legal authorities along the northern border to
prosecute drug trafficking organizations. The human rights
community sought clarification on specific cases and pressed
for improvements in judicial institutions.

Improving Transparency

10. (SBU) NGO representatives also stressed the need for
greater transparency from the GOM in the investigation and
prosecution of human rights cases. While the (FOIA Mexican
equivalent) Federal Institute of Access to Public Information
(IFAI) had a role to play, other institutions, like the CNDH

MEXICO 00003627 004 OF 006

could play a much more active role in holding judicial
authorities, including military tribunals, more accountable.
CNDH was not living up to its legislative mandate in
providing support and assistance for victims, often
encouraging them to not file an official complaint, and doing
little to provide a liaison function with legal authorities.
One representative noted that there is a limited number of
military and legal personnel that were responsible for a
large number of violations. He suggested CNDH create a
database of police and military personnel who had been
accused of violations. The Ambassador agreed that a
centralized system that could fairly register abuses and key
developments would be helpful and that the CNDH could use its
authority to gain access to military bases and help
investigate certain alleged violations in a more systematic
and transparent way.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Protecting Human Rights Defenders and Tracking Commitments
--------------------------------------------- -------------

11. (SBU) The group emphasized the need for the government to
do more to protect human rights defenders as well as
witnesses to abuses. Presently, victims and witnesses assume
the burden of proof and face threats and intimidation. With
penal code and procedural code reform legislation still
pending, there is no witness protection or restitution at the
federal level, and only a couple of states have incorporated
it in their own legal reforms. Since organized crime is
prosecuted only at the federal level, victims and witnesses
are left unprotected from such crimes, including those
involving human rights violations.

12. (SBU) The group recommended that the GOM take concrete
steps to protect human rights defenders including sanctioning
abusers. There also was consensus in the group in support of
strengthening the CNDH by legally obliging government
entities to implement CNDH recommendations, as CNDH President
Plascencia has suggested. There was a consensus suggestion
that the OHCHR in Mexico be invited to the next meeting to
discuss the UN's recent report on attacks and intimidation
against human rights' advocates.

Track Three: Civic Activism Against Violence

13. (SBU) Our work on this front has been active and
important, but is in jeopardy because of interagency funding
flows. Without access to FY 08 money that has already been
appropriated, we will not be able to support some of the
leading groups that are making critical contributions on this
front. The objective is to create a shared civic consensus
on the need to employ the functions of state, military
authorities and civil society to resist and stop violence.
Success demands that rejection of violence become a national
cause. Some of this is already emerging, with new elements
in civil society working together and building support
against violence (e.g., Mexico SOS, Mexico Unido Contra la
Delincuencia (MUCD), Comite Nacional de Consulta y
Participacion de la Comunidad en Seguridad Publica (CONSEGU),
Iluminemos Mexico, Centro de Estudios e Investigacion en
Desarrollo y Asistencia Social (CEIDAS)).

14. (SBU) We are working with many of these groups on
comprehensive efforts that will stimulate civic activism,
engage responsible law enforcement, help future efforts,
increase effectiveness, and reduce the risk of incidental
violations. We incorporated several of these groups in round
tables or outreach events with Deputy Secretary Lew, Under
Secretary Otero and Assistant Secretary Valenzuela during
recent visits to Mexico. Some of the illustrative projects
we have been working on include a "majoring project" with
Iluminemos Mexico that will further the work of mobilizing
civil society against kidnapping and other forms of violence.
USAID has supported two Citizen Participation Council
Forums, which work to support the culture of lawfulness by
raising public awareness. USAID also funds modern media and
web technology as a mechanism for citizens to direct
complaints to the appropriate justice sector authorities, and
supports a citizens' web-based project that has built a

MEXICO 00003627 005 OF 006

secure system for anonymous tips from citizens on acts of


15. (SBU) We have made considerable progress in developing a
human rights strategy that is integrated into our larger
efforts to deepen our relationship and expand our cooperation
across the board. We are working with the GOM and the human
rights community to build a constructive program, but there
is still some resistance that we will have to overcome. On
the official side it will be slow progress with the military,
a conservative institution that resists change even as it
solicits help to modernize. While SEDENA is engaging on human
rights, our challenge is to help move it beyond carefully
limited pronouncements and to support changes in soldiering
and field training to address the problem. With the NGO
community, we will also need to encourage practical
initiatives that translate the witnessing and work on alleged
violations into constructive initiatives that will help build
a more responsible and effective civil society. Our work
with civic participation groups is the final piece, and for
that we will need to deliver already approved funding to
USAID from INL that can help support and sustain this
critical element. End Comment.

--------------------------------------------- --
Participants in November 19 HR Working Dialogue
--------------------------------------------- --

16. (U) In addition to the regular NGO participants listed
below, we invited Maureen Meyer from the Washington Office on
Latin America, on an official visit to Mexico, to join our
November 19 discussion. The Ambassador and the following
offices/agencies participated in the discussion: Political
Section (POL), Agency for International Development (AID),
Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS), Drug Enforcement Agency
(DEA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Defense
Cooperation (ODC), Public Affairs Section (PAS), and the FBI
-- Legal Attache (Legatt). Representatives of the following
NGOs are participating in our working dialogue on human
rights on a regular basis and were represented at the
November 19 meeting:

--The Fray Francisco de Vitoria Center for Human Rights
focuses on cases in front of the International Criminal
Court, executions, freedom of expression, migration, the
death penalty, political prisoners, racism, and torture.
They also publish information on human rights in Mexico.

--The Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights is an
internationally recognized NGO dedicated to promoting respect
for human rights in Mexico. The Center focuses on monitoring
and analyzing the human rights situation in Mexico, assessing
and documenting cases of violations, litigating cases
domestically and internationally, educating and training
other civil society organizations, and publishing information
related to human rights in Mexico.

--The Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights is an NGO
based in Tlapa de Comonfort, in the State of Guerrero, that
supports indigenous people and has promoted and defended the
rights of indigenous communities in Guerrero for more than 13

--The Center for Research and Analysis Fundar works at the
national and international level to address a broad range of
contemporary issues through budget and policy analysis. It
focuses on budgets, poverty reduction programs, health sector
policies, legislative monitoring, the right of access to
information, monitoring of law enforcement agencies, and
oversight of human rights agencies and policy.

--The Citizen's Council for Public Security and Justice
focuses on public security and aims to improve results from
public security and penal authorities.

--The Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of
Human Rights tracks issues related to military justice, due

MEXICO 00003627 006 OF 006

process, transnational justice, and violence against women.

--ProDerecho is a contractor financed by USAID that funds a
multidisciplinary group with activities focused on
strengthening and consolidating legal institutions. The
ProDerecho staff specializes in diverse areas of the justice
system and implementing new criminal justice reforms.

--Citizen Network for Security with Justice focuses on
judicial processes and the transition from an inquisitorial
to an accusatory system in the implementation of oral trials.

Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at and the North American
Partnership Blog at /

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