I. BACKGROUND TO THE REPORT
1. The Charter of the Organization of American States provides that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("the IACHR" or "the Commission") shall be a principal organ of the Organization and that its main task shall be to promote respect for and the protection of human rights and serve as the advisory body to the Organization in this field. In keeping with that provision, the Commission has employed various mechanisms and practices in the fulfillment of its functions and mandates, which include, inter alia, on-site visits, the preparation of comprehensive and/or ad hoc reports, the investigation of complaints brought by individuals and various other activities for the promotion of human rights.
2. In that context, the IACHR has been analyzing the general situation of human rights in Mexico. The decision to carry out an on-site visit, in order to evaluate the situation first hand, was based on the invitation extended by President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce De Leon taken at the Commission's ninety-first session. The visit itself took place from 15 to 24 July 1996,(1) under the legal framework of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter "the American Convention") of which Mexico is a State Party, as well as the Statute and Regulations of the Commission.
3. The aim of this report is to evaluate the human rights situation in Mexico in the light both of the information and documentation which were compiled and analyzed in the normal course of the Commission's work and of the findings and abundant data which resulted from the visit and which have since been updated.
II. INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK
4. In recent years, Mexico has made considerable efforts to reform its institutions and adapt them to the demands of a modern democratic State governed by its Constitution and the rule of law. In that respect, emphasis must be placed on the significant political reforms that have been implemented in Mexico, which have brought about improvements in the electoral system through impartial regulatory bodies that are independent of the Government. The voter registration photo-ID card, which was introduced in 1992, also marked a major step forward insofar as it instilled in the various participants and in voters at large confidence in the electoral system. What is more, the fact that the various political parties reached consensus on approving the reforms was a reflection of the importance of those reforms and the undeniable climate of confidence and fairness which they helped to create.
5. This process was put to the test in the recent elections held on July 6, 1997, which were noted for their competitiveness, transparency, large voter turnout, and normalcy, as well as for the fact that the results were accepted by the majority of the participants. It is worth mentioning that the opposition obtained a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and that it won the elections to head the Federal District, and the gubernatorial elections in Querétaro and Nuevo León. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the importance of the reforms and the need for the people to have a more open and transparent electoral system are apparent.
6. The subject of human rights has been a key element in these reforms. A National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) was established by the Presidential Decree of 5 June 1990 as an independent agency within the Ministry of the Interior. The constitutional reform of 29 June 1992 transformed the National Commission into an independent public body with its own legal personality and separate budget. The same constitutional reform also paved the way for the establishment of human rights organizations in the various states.
7. There can be no doubt that the advent of these organizations in Mexico has had a positive impact on the protection and promotion of human rights. In the years since their establishment, the national and state human rights commissions have investigated numerous complaints, made important recommendations and, to a large extent, won the trust of the population, which now feels more secure in the knowledge that specialized institutions are working to promote respect for fundamental rights.
8. The Commission would like to make special reference to the recent announcement by the Mexican State that it has decided to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This decision was reported by the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Rosario Green, during a speech given in Santafé de Bogotá on April 30, 1998, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of American States. The IACHR will be following with great interest the completion of the internal process of ratification of that decision, which is certain to have a highly positive impact on its relationship with the Mexican State, and which confirms Mexico's commitment to the full and effective exercise of human rights in the country.
9. Despite the considerable progress made at the institutional level, the human rights situation in Mexico is certainly complex. The developments referred to above, however, are evidence of the country's desire to make the changes that are required to promote more effective protection and respect for human rights in Mexico.
III. THE ON-SITE VISIT
10. During its stay in Mexico, the Commission visited the Federal District and the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Baja California in order to meet with state authorities and representatives of civil society. At all times during the visit, the Commission enjoyed complete freedom and members were able to travel about the country and to meet with representatives of all sectors, individuals and groups.
11. Participating in the visit were those persons who were members of the Commission in 1996: Dean Claudio Grossman (the then Chairman); Ambassador John S. Donaldson (the then First Vice-Chairman); Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao (Rapporteur for Mexico and then Second Vice-Chairman); Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano: Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía; Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé and Professor Robert Kogod Goldman. Members of the Commission were also assisted by the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana; Assistant Executive Secretaries, Dr. David Padilla and Dr. Domingo Acevedo; Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, Senior Legal Counsel and Mr. Ibrahim García, the Commission's Legal Counsel for Mexican Affairs. Administrative support was provided by the secretaries Tania Hernández, Rosario McIntyre, Martha Keller.
12. During its visit, the Commission had the opportunity to meet with the President of Mexico, Dr. Ernesto Zedillo, and with other high-level federal, state and district officials, as well as with church dignitaries, businessmen, representatives of the media and non-governmental human rights organizations and other representatives of civil society.
13. The Commission acquainted itself with the main aspects of the complex and delicate human rights situation in Mexico and gathered valuable information which has been very useful for the preparation of this comprehensive report. The broad program of visits permitted the most diverse sectors of Mexico's social and political communities to share with the Commission their views on the human rights situation in Mexico. This first visit undertaken at the invitation of the Mexican State enabled the Commission to deepen its relationship with the State and civil society of Mexico so that together they could continue their ongoing task of protecting and promoting human rights.
14. In keeping with the Commission's normal practice, the documents and individual complaints received during the on-site visit have been or will be duly processed in accordance with its statutory provisions. In its report, the Commission referred to the different types of information which it received before, during and after its visit. Great importance has therefore been attached to the consideration of the information provided by the Mexican State and by non-governmental human rights organizations, which have made a valuable contribution to this report. Account was also taken of the official documents and legal norms that were compiled in the course of the Commission's work.
15. By virtue of the provisions of Article 62 of its Regulations, the Commission forwarded the first version of this report to the Mexican State on March 4, 1998, and requested it to send back its comments on it within two months' time. On May 11, 1998, the State sent the Commission a document entitled: "Comments and Observations on the IACHR Report on the Status of Human Rights in Mexico." This document contains a series of general considerations regarding the Commission's report, in addition to the State's evaluation, opinions, explanations, suggestions, and updated information. All of this information was analyzed by the Commission and, the relevant material was incorporated into the final version of the approved report.
V. OUTLINE OF THE REPORT
16. The present report on the situation of human rights in Mexico is divided into ten chapters. Chapter 1 contains a description of the structure of the Mexican State based on the constitutional provisions of the United Mexican States. The later chapters of the report are concerned with the issue of the enjoyment of human rights in Mexico, with specific reference to: social and economic rights, political rights, the right to justice, freedom and personal integrity, the right to life, the situation of indigenous peoples, the human rights of women, and lastly the right to freedom of thought and expression. The last chapter of the report contains final conclusions and recommendations.
17. The Commission wishes to acknowledge the cooperation it received during its visit from the State of Mexico and the assistance provided by State officials in the form of up to date information, without which the Commission would have been unable to successfully complete its task.
18. The Commission also wishes to acknowledge the work done by non-governmental organizations and by individuals and institutions of Mexican civil society. Thanks to the complaints and reports which it receives from them, the Commission has been able to monitor on an ongoing basis the human rights situation in this important country.
1. The Chairman of the Commission during its ninety-first session was Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía. The visit to Mexico took place during the following year when the Chairman was Dean Claudio Grossman. Since 1996, the Commission's rapporteur for Mexico has been Dr. Carlos Ayala Corao, who was appointed Chairman of the Commission as of 1 January 1998.