Sunday, May 28, 2006

Media Release 28 May

Sunday 28 May 2006

Mexican Government Must Act to Secure Human Rights in Atenco

The time has come for the Mexican police to be held accountable for their actions. A spokesperson for the Latin America Solidarity Committee, Elliott O'Brien, called for Mexican President Vicente Fox to honour his word by freeing the prisoners, bringing police guilty of abuses before the courts and taking steps taken to bring police protocol into line with Mexico’s commitments to human rights. A delegation in support of the people of Atenco and Texcoco, will take these concerns, once again, to the Mexican Embassy at 1pm Monday 29 May.

On Friday 12 May a number of concerned individuals protested this abuse outside the Mexican Embassy in Wellington. A group initiated a dialogue with embassy officials. At the time there was a lack of clarity on many issues surrounding the developments in Atenco. Mr O' Brien said that Embassy officials insisted the Mexican government believes that the human rights of its citizens should be upheld, investigations were underway and where abuses were found to have occurred, action would be taken.

However, O'Brien said that, so far, the actions of the Mexican government have been face-saving at best. The 189 arrested were charged with hostage-taking, blocking roads and
organised delinquency. The fact that charges against the foreigners have been dropped, but those against locals stand, suggests that there is not evidence or basis in law to bring them.

On 3 May, Mexican police and army officials forcibly evicted flower vendors occupying a marketplace in Texcoco, Mexico. 189 people, including five foreigners were arrested, and a 14 year old boy named Francisco Javier Cortes Santiago was killed. Imprisoned in Santiaguito, Almolaya de Juárez, the National Human Rights Commission has received 182 separate claims of rights violations including severe and repeated beatings, degrading treatment and violation of legal protocols. 30 women reported
sexual abuse by security forces.

Since this time both national and international human rights organisations have been allowed access to the prisoners and further information has surfaced. Notably, Amnesty
International has questioned the arrests of the vendors and demanded their immediate release.

The Miguel Augstin Pro Human Rights Center released video testimony from three state police officers confirming responsibility for the death of the 14-year-old." The youth saw an officer who was trying to hide. He shouted that there was a state police officer and (the officer) took out his gun and shot him," said the officers. The three policemen revealed that state police arrived in Atenco armed with R-15 caliber rifles and .38 and 9 millimeter pistols. "We were under orders to beat anything that moved, but only out of sight of the media," said the police.

Public Security Secretary Eduardo Medina admitted officials used excessive force in dealing with flower vendors and then quelling street protests. The National Human Rights Commission reported that police used prophylactics during the abuse, a strong indication that they came to
Atenco with the intention of committing rape.

Given the haste that charges have been laid against the vendors, O'Brien said that it was unacceptable that the police continue to hide behind open-ended investigations. “When
questioned about the issue, Mexican president Vicente Fox 'if there were excesses, then they should be punished by applying the law.' Evidence and testimony of excesses are now available, it is time for action.”


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