View Full Version : Human Rights Report on Mexico Does Not Include Homicide Victims Who Are U.S. Citizens

03-15-2010, 01:47 PM
Human Rights Report on Mexico Does Not Include Homicide Victims Who Are U.S. Citizens
Monday, March 15, 2010
By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer

(CNSNews.com) – The State Department's latest report on human rights practices in nations around the world mentions the 8,000 people, mostly Mexicans, who have died in Mexico from drug-related violence. Some of those victims are named, and details of their deaths are disclosed.

But none of the 30 U.S. citizens who were murdered in Mexico between Jan. 1, 2009 and June 27, 2009 are included in the report.

When asked why that was the case, Michael Posner, assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told CNSNews.com that the report “is intended to give a broad view.”

“I think the report is – we deal with those issues a range of ways, including through our Consular Affairs Bureau and people working in embassies on the ground,” Posner said. “This report is intended to give a broad view. The State Department released the "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices " on Thursday.

“There is a lot of violence in Mexico, as you rightly point out,” Posner said. “American citizens – because we’re neighbors, because it’s – there is so much violence related to drugs, crime, et cetera, American citizens are among those who are the victims.

“And we obviously pay greater attention – we have an obligation to pay attention to protecting American citizens,” Posner said. “But it’s not – those cases are not necessarily highlighted first and foremost in the report.”

According to the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, 30 U.S. citizens were victims of homicide in Mexico over the first six months of 2009. Citing privacy laws, the Death of U.S. Citizens Abroad by Non-natural Causes database only reports the date, location and cause of death. No names are provided of any victims, including those who were murdered.

Despite Posner’s claim of the human rights report giving a broad view of human rights violations in Mexico, many details are given about Mexican victims who were victims of homicide, including their names and the circumstances of their deaths.

One portion of the report details several homicides by Mexican security forces:

On May 5, the bodies of civilians Miguel Angel Gama Habif, Israel Ayala Ramirez, and Aaron Rojas de la Fuente, who were detained by soldiers on March 17, were found near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. On May 8, the Secretariat of Defense (SEDENA) acknowledged responsibility and announced that 12 members of the army's First Regiment of the Motorized Cavalry, Eighth Military Zone, had been formally indicted for the killings.

Another section details the death of a civilian:

On July 17, soldiers from the army's First Regiment Motorized Cavalry (Eighth Military Zone) in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, shot and killed 18-year-old Jorge Eduardo de Leon Vela while he was going to work. After the shooting the victim was taken to the hospital and kept under military guard. His wife found a patient in a local hospital with characteristics similar to those of her husband, whom soldiers had registered under another name. She was not allowed access to identify him. Two days later the victim died and was transferred to a local funeral home. When the mother and the wife of the victim went to claim the remains, they were interrogated and briefly detained. They never received an official explanation. A subsequent SEDENA press release claimed that the victim possessed drugs and weapons, assertions that were questioned by the victim's relatives and human rights organizations.

Repeated requests by CNSNews.com to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor press office asking if any of the 8,000 people referred to in the report were U.S. or Mexican citizens were not answered by the deadline for filing this story. The bureau also was asked if the 30 homicide victims in the State Department’s death of U.S. citizens database were included in those 8,000 noted in the report.

CNSNews.com also did not get a response after repeated calls and e-mails request asking the Bureau of Consular Affairs press office if the 30 U.S. citizens listed in its database were included in the human rights report. The bureau’s press office also did not answer a request for data on the deaths of U.S. citizens in Mexico for the second six months of 2009.

The report does include a long list of human rights concerns in Mexico, as listed in the introduction to the 26-page portion of the report focused on that country.

“The government generally respected and promoted human rights; however, the following problems were reported during the year by the country’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and other sources: unlawful killings by security forces; kidnappings; physical abuse; poor and overcrowded prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detention; corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency that engendered impunity within the judicial system; confessions coerced through torture; violence and threats against journalists leading to self-censorship,” the report introduction says.

“Societal problems included domestic violence, including killings of women; trafficking in persons; social and economic discrimination against some members of the indigenous population; and child labor.”