COMMITTEE ON THE
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
353. The Committee
considered the ninth and tenth periodic reports of Mexico, consolidated
in one document (CERD/C/260/Add.1), at its 1104th and 1105th meetings, held
on 2 and 3 August 1995 (see CERD/C/SR.1104 and 1105). Together with the
ninth and tenth periodic reports, the Committee also examined the report
containing additional information (CERD/C/286), requested by the Committee's
decision No. 2 (46) dated 9 March 1995 in accordance with article 9, paragraph
1, of the Convention.
354. The reports
were introduced by the representative of the State party, who reaffirmed
that the phenomenon of racial discrimination did not exist in Mexico, although
the most vulnerable groups in society, such as women, disabled persons,
migrant workers and indigenous people, did suffer some forms of discrimination
caused by socio-economic factors. Extreme poverty among the latter group
was both a cause and a consequence of their economic, social and cultural
marginalization and exposed them to discriminatory treatment in both rural
and urban areas. It was difficult to quantify the indigenous population.
Based on estimates made for strictly statistical purposes and the language
criterion according to which indigenous persons are those speaking an indigenous
language, there were 7 to 10 million indigenous people in Mexico. He acknowledged
that the language criterion alone was inadequate and that the criterion
of self-identification, for example, should be considered a fundamental
criterion, in conformity with ILO Convention No. 169.
355. He went on
to state that it was only since 1991 that Mexico, despite its age-old history
as a State, had recognized itself legally as a multi-ethnic and multicultural
nation. Until then, and since its accession to independence nearly two centuries
previously, the indigenous populations had been regarded at best as peoples
to be civilized and to be assimilated culturally. The meagre results of
that policy of integrating the indigenous people implemented over several
decades had brought it home to the Mexicans that it was a mistake to seek
at all costs to build a homogeneous country and deny the deep-seated roots
of the Mexican nation. Now that the cultural diversity of the Mexican population
was recognized by the Constitution, whose article 4 had been amended to
that effect, it was necessary to adjust the whole body of Mexican legislation
in order to eradicate all discriminatory practices, particularly in the
fields of access to natural resources, the administration of justice, the
administrative organization of communities and education.
the additional report requested by the Committee at its forty-sixth session
(decision No. 2 (46)) and dealing mainly with the conflict which had broken
out in the State of Chiapas in 1994, he explained that the conflict was
the painful expression of the despair caused by extreme poverty. He said
that, right from the beginning of the conflict, the Federal Government had
acknowledged the legitimacy of some of the reasons that had led members
of the indigenous communities to rebel; those reasons stemmed from economic
and social marginalization and had nothing to do with racism or racial discrimination.
The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) itself had not reported any
problems of racial discrimination within the meaning of the Convention.
He then described the measures and programmes adopted by the Government
for the State of Chiapas, amounting to some $129 million.
357. The members
of the Committee thanked the State party for its detailed, frank reports
and for submitting additional written information on the situation in the
State of Chiapas.
358. Members of
the Committee expressed their difference of opinion with the Government
on the kind of discrimination suffered by many indigenous people in Mexico,
pointing out that it did in fact fall within the scope of articles 2 and
5 of the Convention. The discriminatory nature of policies or practices
that perpetuated the marginalization and impoverishment of certain ethnic
groups was indeed a form of racial discrimination within the meaning of
members acknowledged that, by recognizing the specific rights of the indigenous
communities, the amendment to article 4 of the Mexican Constitution marked
an important step in the transition from a mestizo society to a multi-cultural
nation. Without statutes and measures to implement that provision, however,
the constitutional reform would be of little practical effect. Members of
the Committee also noted that, in many instances, the oppression of the
indigenous communities was due less to the absence of legal rules than to
the fact that economic interest groups and local politicians pursued their
abusive practices to the detriment of indigenous groups with impunity.
360. Members of
the Committee noted with interest the steps taken by the Government to improve
the economic and social conditions of the indigenous communities, particularly
the programmes designed to overcome extreme poverty, such as the National
Solidarity Programme and the National Programme for the Development of the
Indigenous Peoples. The innovative character of certain approaches was commended.
A most interesting new feature, for example, was the programme for the reform
of the justice system which takes into account Indian customs in court proceedings.
It was felt that this would also improve mutual cultural recognition and
consultation among all sectors of society. That programme was to be classified
among the measures of positive discrimination provided for in article 1
of the Convention.
members drew attention, however, to the lack of information in the report
by the State party on the real impact of those programmes. They expressed
their concern about allegations from reliable sources about their ineffectiveness
and the corrupt practices of certain local officials or powerful landowners.
In that connection, members of the Committee stressed the importance of
selecting social indicators that would make it possible to decide which
sectors merited a priority input of resources and to determine whether the
programmes had the expected impact.
to the various bodies set up at the federal level to promote and protect
the rights of indigenous peoples, members of the Committee acknowledged
that the measures taken by them were undeniably important, but wondered
whether the fact that there were so many of them did not entail a risk of
bureaucratization and duplication. It was essential to ensure smooth coordination
between the various bodies. Committee members also wished to know whether
members of the indigenous communities took part in the management of those
institutions in positions of responsibility.
363. Members of
the Committee raised a question that was of fundamental importance for the
indigenous populations, that of land, which was crucial to their subsistence,
but also to their identity. There was evidence that the administrative measures
taken by the Mexican Government were insufficient to guarantee fair and
equitable treatment of members of indigenous communities in the process
of land distribution. For decades, landowners had been illegally dispossessing
the indigenous peoples of their lands. The Indians had been gradually driven
from the fertile lands along the Pacific coast towards the central highlands
and finally to the rainforest in the east, which was ill suited to agriculture.
Members of the Committee noted that the Mexican Government had long been
accused by human rights organizations of doing nothing to put an end to
the land-related violence in rural areas, regarding it as inevitable. Committee
members also observed that the indigenous communities in Mexico viewed the
recent amendment to article 27 of the Constitution and the promulgation
of the new agrarian law in 1992 as a further threat to their already fragile
economic activities and to their identity. Moreover, the economic situation
of the indigenous communities seemed to have deteriorated since Mexico's
signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Members of the
Committee requested more information on the practical effects of the 1992
constitutional reform and on the Government's response to EZLN demands with
regard to land.
364. Turning to
the question of the conflict in the State of Chiapas, members of the Committee,
welcoming the Government's efforts to find a political rather than a military
solution to the conflict, wished to know what measures had been taken to
put an end to the activities of the paramilitary groups still present there,
whether the detainees who had not yet been released had benefited from fair
and equitable legal procedures and whether the civilians and the military
personnel responsible for the disappearances, arbitrary executions and torture
had been arrested and brought to justice.
365. On the subject
of article 4 of the Convention, members of the Committee noted that there
was a continuing misunderstanding between the Committee and the Mexican
Government, which maintained that no specific legislation was needed to
implement that article because the question of the indigenous people was
never seen in terms of racial discrimination. That position did not meet
the requirements of the Committee, which considered that specific measures
must be adopted, even when there was no evidence of racist phenomena in
a country, if only to prevent racial or ethnic discrimination and for educational
366. With regard
to article 5 of the Convention, members of the Committee noted that, as
the Mexican Government itself acknowledged with great candour, the indigenous
populations were still in fact subject to discrimination in many areas,
such as education and training in general, the right to their own language
and culture, health, access to a nutritious and balanced diet, access to
land ownership, access to infrastructure like the road network and other
means of communication and access to justice. Committee members again pointed
to the inadequacy of the steps taken and the lack of clear information on
their impact. They requested the State party to provide more details on
the implementation of article 5 of the Convention in the next periodic report.
367. On the subject
of article 6 of the Convention, it was noted that, although it appeared
that the Convention could be invoked directly before the courts in a case
of racial discrimination, nothing had been said about the kind of sentences
that might be handed down by the judge in such a case.
368. The information
provided on article 7 of the Convention was noted with great interest by
the Committee, which considered that the prospects afforded by the steps
already taken were most promising. It was felt that since Mexico's cultural
heritage was unique it should be cultivated, developed and made widely known.
Encouraging the Government to continue with the dissemination of the ancestral
culture of the indigenous population, the Committee recommended that the
State party should associate the indigenous communities of other countries
with such events, as had already been done with Bolivia, in order to foster
a sense of cultural solidarity.
369. Replying to
Committee members' questions and comments, the representative of the State
party explained that the amendment to article 27 of the Constitution had
been justified by the fact that there was no longer enough land available
for distribution and that the amendment had not affected the existing social
guarantees in agrarian matters, including the ban on large estates.
370. The representative
affirmed the Government's will to leave no violation committed during the
events in the State of Chiapas unpunished and offered to inform the United
Nations Centre for Human Rights of the proceedings of inquiries conducted
and sentences handed down in that connection. He also specified that all
the rebels detained had been released as of July 1994 and invited the members
of the Committee to read the report of the International Committee of the
Red Cross, which had been present in Chiapas during the 18 months following
the outbreak of the conflict.
371. The representative
also informed the Committee that one of the points on which agreement had
been reached with the EZLN, the revision of the Penal Code, was in the process
of being implemented.
372. Lastly, the
representative assured the members of the Committee that the next periodic
report of Mexico would contain more information on the implementation of
article 5 of the Convention.
373. At its 1124th
meeting, held on 16 August 1995, the Committee adopted the following concluding
374. The submission
by the State party of a detailed and frank periodic report, prepared in
accordance with the Committee's revised guidelines for the preparation of
reports, and of additional written information on the situation prevailing
in the State of Chiapas, requested by the Committee's decision 2 (46) on
29 March 1995 during its 46th session is welcomed. Appreciation is also
expressed for the supplementary information provided orally by the delegation
of the State party.
375. It is noted
that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in article
14 of the Convention, and some members requested that the possibility of
such a declaration be considered.
376. The legislative
and other measures adopted by the government in favour of the indigenous
population, in accordance with article 2 of the Convention, are welcomed.
It is noted with satisfaction in particular that the amendment to article
4 of the Constitution in January 1992 represents a fundamental shift in
the State party's policy towards indigenous peoples, since it states that
the Mexican nation has a multicultural composition originally based on its
indigenous peoples and recognizes, for the first time since Mexico's independence,
special constitutional rights for the indigenous people living on its territory.
377. As regards
the Chiapas conflict, it is noted with satisfaction that in January 1994,
the government decided to take steps to seek a political rather than a military
solution, unilaterally declared a cease-fire, decreed a general amnesty
and established the National Commission for Comprehensive Development and
Social Justice for Indigenous Peoples.
378. The efforts
made by the State party to set up a bilingual-bicultural education system
in favour of the indigenous groups are welcomed.
379. The amendment
of articles 18 to 22 of the Constitution intended to expand the constitutional
rights of accused persons in criminal proceedings of indigenous origin,
as well as the ongoing revision of the Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes,
are also noted with satisfaction.
subjects of concern
380. The situation
of extreme poverty and marginalization of the majority of the indigenous
population in Mexico is a matter of concern. Such a situation has complex
causes, some of them stemming from the impact of the encounter of civilizations,
as well as the consequences of the recent internationalization of the economy
for social policies in Mexico. It has been and still is the responsibility
of the Government to improve the economic and social situation of the indigenous
population of Mexico.
381. Concern is
expressed at the lack of information in the State party's reports on the
actual implementation of constitutional and legal measures, and on the impact
of the various policies and programmes adopted by Mexico in applying the
provisions of the Convention.
concern is expressed that the State party does not seem to perceive that
pervasive discrimination being suffered by the 56 indigenous groups living
in Mexico falls under the definition given to racial discrimination in article
1 of the Convention. The description of their plight merely as an unequal
participation in social and economic development is inadequate.
383. Concern is
also expressed that too little attention is given by the State party to
the effects on the economic situation of the indigenous communities, of
adherence to the North American Free Trade Agreement and of the related
1992 constitutional and legislative reform of the land ownership system.
384. While the
achievements of the National Indigenous Institute are commended, note is
taken of the insufficient coordination between the various institutes and
commissions which are charged with protecting the rights of the indigenous
communities in Mexico, as well as their bureaucratic functioning.
385. Concern is
expressed that the State party still has not implemented the provisions
in article 4 of the Convention.
386. Concern continues
regarding the serious discrimination indigenous peoples have to face in
respect of the enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social and
cultural rights. Particular concern is expressed at the inequitable treatment
of indigenous people in the process of land distribution, including restitution,
and at the violent and illegal resolution of many land disputes, at the
amendment to article 27 of the Constitution, and at the lack of support
given to the bilingual-bicultural education system.
387. It is not
clear how the Convention is incorporated into the Federal and State legal
systems nor whether the provisions of the Convention can be directly invoked
before the courts.
388. The Committee
recommends that the State party pursue its efforts to analyse the root causes
of the socio-economic marginalization faced by the indigenous population
of Mexico and continue its attempts to harmonize indigenous customs with
the positive legal order.
389. The Committee
draws the attention of the State party to the necessity of adopting indicators
to evaluate the policies and programmes aimed at the protection and promotion
of the indigenous peoples' rights.
390. The Committee
recommends that the State party review the functioning of and the coordination
between the various institutions in charge of the protection of the indigenous
391. The Committee
reaffirms that the provisions of article 4, paragraphs (a) and (b), of the
Convention are of a mandatory character as stated in general recommendation
XV (32) of the Committee and recommends that the State party implement each
of the obligations.
392. The Committee
wishes the Government of Mexico to provide, in its next report, detailed
information on the implementation of article 5 of the Convention.
393. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party find a fair and equitable solution
for the distribution, including restitution, of lands. As far as land disputes
are concerned, all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the rule
of law is applied without improper interference in particular by powerful
394. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party make an increased effort in promoting
affirmative measures in the field of education and training.
395. The Committee
recommends that the Mexican Government ensure that violations of indigenous
peoples' human rights be investigated, and that the victims receive compensation.
396. Welcome is
expressed for the proposal, made orally by the delegation, of providing
the United Nations Centre for Human Rights with regular and detailed information
in that respect.
397. The Committee
recommends that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention, adopted by the fourteenth meeting of States parties.
398. The Committee
recommends that the State party's eleventh periodic report, due on 22 March
1996, be an updating report.