Mexico - Laws Against Anti-Semitism or Discrimination
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Reviews Mexico's Report
9 August 2019 - The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its review of the combined eighteenth to twenty-first periodic report of Mexico on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Introducing the report, Martha Delgado Peralta, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, condemned the despicable expression of racial hatred in El Paso, Texas which had led to the death of 22 persons, including eight Mexican nationals. Turning to the progress her country made during the period under review, the Under-Secretary recognized the challenges that were still to overcome after years of inaction and omission by the Mexican state and because of paternalistic attitude vis-à-vis the populations discriminated against based on their race and ethical background. More than 20 per cent of the population self-identified as indigenous and 1.2 per cent as Afro-Mexican; discrimination against those two groups was historic, organic, and structural, Ms. Delgado Peralta said. Mexico had put in place a variety of programmes and plans of actions to strengthen the protection of rights and fundamental freedoms of all and make diversity a value rather than an unjustified ground for segregation. The Constitution, in its article 1, expressly prohibited discrimination, including on the grounds of ethnicity, while an initiative to criminalize violence against any person on the basis of origin, ethnic background, religion, skin colour, language, or national or social background was currently before the Senate.
All 32 federal units had a law against discrimination; the definition of discrimination contained in the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination had been broadened and the work of the Mexican Discrimination Prevention Agency had been strengthened in 2018 with powers to prevent and eliminate hate speech. A constitutional amendment recognizing the Afro-Mexican communities as part of the multi-cultural makeup of the country had been adopted recently. Today, 122 consultations with indigenous peoples were ongoing on topics such as development plans and hydroelectric projects and the number of indigenous schools that benefitted from federal funding had been increased by 274 per cent. In the past few months, Mexico, a country of migrants’ transit and return, had faced an unprecedented situation that increased the risk of discrimination against migrants, said the Under-Secretary. The National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination had elaborated a guide to prevent their racial profiling and over one million migrants had received various forms of assistance during the 2012 to 2019 period.
In the dialogue that followed, Committee Experts noted that the report had been submitted before the inauguration of the new Government on 1 December 2018, which had launched a series of changes in public policies. Taking positive note of the legal and institutional framework to combat racial discrimination and welcoming the country’s transparency and the recognition of the problem of discrimination, the Experts said that the responses to historical and structural discrimination against indigenous peoples, people of African descent, and migrants were insufficient so far. They wondered what the reform of article 2 of the Constitution which recognized the identity of Afro-Mexican peoples would mean for their equality and rights and stressed that effective public policy to combat racial discrimination and promote equality could not focus on actions of a universal nature - the State must deepen the instruments and policies to help those segments of the population who were discriminated against. The Experts urged Mexico to better link its policies for indigenous peoples and people of African descent with disaggregated statistics and asked how the country would proceed with breaking the neutrality of policies promoting equality in a society in which identities were only vaguely defined.
Poverty in Mexico had a colour and a race, as 71.9 per cent of the indigenous population lived in poverty and social marginalization. Mexico must ensure an effective enjoyment of their right to free, prior, and informed consultation, especially when mega projects were concerned, while national climate change must protect the rights of indigenous peoples, people of African descent, and other disadvantaged population groups, given their vulnerability to climate change impacts. The Experts welcomed Mexico’s advanced legislation on the rights of human rights defenders and journalists but were extremely concerned about the ongoing violence against them and the impunity. Pointing out that three journalists had been killed last week in Mexico, they requested an update on the investigations into the deaths of journalists and human rights defenders. On migration, the delegation was asked to explain the role of the National Guard in the management of migratory flows, the legal basis of the measures relative to the detention and expulsion of migrants and their families, and the investigations into the cases of missing migrants.
In his concluding remarks, Silvio José Albuquerque e Silva, Committee Rapporteur for Mexico, thanked the delegation and underscored the good disposition with which it had answered the Committee’s questions.
Ms. Delgado Peralta, in her conclusion, expressed pride regarding Mexico’s achievements and recognized the remaining challenges, and then reiterated her country’s serious commitment to human rights and the fight against racism.
Noureddine Amir, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and congratulated it for the quality of its responses.
The delegation of Mexico consisted of representatives of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, the Senate, the National Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination, the National Institute for Women, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Mexico at the end of its ninety-ninth session on 29 August. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.
Public meetings of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are webcast live at http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
At its next public meeting on Tuesday, 13 August at 3 p.m. the Committee will consider the combined initial and second periodic report of the State of Palestine (CERD/C/PSE/1-2).
The Committee had before it the combined eighteenth to twenty-first periodic report of Mexico (CERD/C/MEX/18-21).
Presentation of the Report
MARTHA DELGADO PERALTA, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, in the presentation of the report said that hateful discourses based on the idea that a race was superior were unfortunately rearing their head again. Last weekend, there had been another expression of such racial hatred in El Paso, Texas which had led to the death of 22 persons, including eight Mexican nationals. Mexico condemned these despicable acts and reiterated the duty of all States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to take all measures to eliminate all forms of incitation to hatred and discrimination. For Mexico, the promotion and respect for human rights were vitally important and this principle constituted a pillar of its foreign policy, said the Under-Secretary who then turned to presenting the progress her country made and the challenges that were still to overcome after years of inaction and omission by the Mexican state and because of paternalistic attitude vis-à-vis the populations discriminated against based on their race and ethical background. All future actions would thus require the full participation of indigenous and people of African descent as well as full interinstitutional coordination and adequate human and financial resources, recognized Ms. Delgado Peralta.
Mexico was a multi-ethnic and multicultural state, with 68 indigenous peoples and the Afro-Mexican people. According to the 2015 census, more than 20 per cent of the population self-identified as indigenous and 1.2 per cent as Afro-Mexican. Discrimination against those two groups was historic, organic, and structural – as indicated by the 2017 survey on discrimination, two out of ten persons in Mexico said they had been discriminated against on the basis the colour of their skin, weight, sex, age, or another personal characteristics. Some 42.6 per cent of the indigenous population had been denied information, a service, or access to a Government programme without having been given an explanation for such refusal. To address those issues, a variety of programmes and plans of actions had been put in place to strengthen the protection of rights and fundamental freedoms and make diversity a value rather than an unjustified ground for segregation, Ms. Delgado Peralta said, mentioning in particular the National Programme for Equality and Non-Discrimination, the National Programme for Indigenous Peoples, the Programme for Equality between Men and Women, and the National Human Rights Programme.
In its article 1, the Constitution expressly prohibited any kind of discrimination, including on the grounds of ethnicity, while an initiative to criminalize violence against any person on the basis of origin, ethnic background, religion, skin colour, language or national or social background was currently before the Senate. All 32 federal units had a law against discrimination. The definition of discrimination contained in the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination had been broadened and the work of the Mexican Discrimination Prevention Agency had been strengthened in 2018 with powers to prevent and eliminate hate speech. A constitutional amendment recognizing the Afro-Mexican communities as part of the multi-cultural makeup of the country had been adopted recently. In 2018, the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples had been created to address structural discrimination issues faced by indigenous peoples and Afro-Mexicans.
With regard to access to justice, the Head of the Delegation pointed out that article 2 of the Constitution enshrined the right of indigenous peoples to have their customs and cultural specificities taken into account, and there were more than 1,700 certified interpreters in 109 language variants. In 2015, the Supreme Court had ruled that indigenous peoples and communities had a right to be consulted ex ante on activities of the State that significantly impacted their environment; today, federal entities were holding 122 consultations on various topics such as development plans and hydroelectric projects. In addition, the number of indigenous schools that benefitted from federal funding had been increased by 274 per cent. The Indigenous Education Support Programme, which sought to foster education in indigenous and Afro-Mexican communities, had led to the graduation from various educational programmes of 84,110 indigenous children and youth.
Turning to migration flows, Ms. Delgado Peralta said that, in the past few months, Mexico, a country of transit and return, had faced an unprecedented situation that increased the risk of discrimination against migrants. In that context, the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination had elaborated a guide to prevent racial profiling. Between 2012 and 2019, over one million migrants had received assistance in the form of the provision of translation services, food, and humanitarian assistance, while in 2018, over 2,000 migrants, most of whom came from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, had been offered legal aid. Under-Secretary Delgado Peralta reiterated her delegation’s will to engage in a frank, constructive, and transparent dialogue and, through such a dialogue, move forward towards the elimination of discrimination and the guarantee of the full enjoyment of the rights of all.
Questions by the Country Rapporteur
SILVIO JOSÉ ALBUQUERQUE E SILVA, Committee Rapporteur for Mexico, at the beginning of the dialogue with the delegation of Mexico, noted that the report had been submitted before the inauguration of the new Government on 1 December 2018, which had launched a series of changes in public policies.
He noted positively the country’s anti-discrimination legal and institutional framework, in particular the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination and the National Programme for Equality and Non-Discrimination. However, the reform of the federal law to grant more guarantees to the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination (CONAPRED) had failed to bring public policies in line with the Convention. Responses to historical and structural discrimination against indigenous peoples, people of African descent, and migrants were insufficient so far, he added. How many complaints of racial discrimination had been registered, he asked and requested information on steps taken by the State to address discrimination against Indigenous peoples within the legal system. What concrete special measures, also known affirmative action measures, were in place to promote equality and combat discrimination?
The delegation was asked to inform on the proposal to reform article 2 of the Constitution, which emphasized the multicultural composition of the nation and explicitly recognized the identity of Afro-Mexican peoples and communities, which the Senate has approved on 30 April 2019. What would such a reform mean in terms of equality? Would Afro-Mexicans be granted the same rights as indigenous peoples?
The Rapporteur nevertheless welcomed the delegation’s transparency and the recognition of the problem of discrimination in the country and stressed that effective public policy to combat racial discrimination and promote equality could not focus on actions of a universal nature. The State must deepen the instruments and policies to help those segments of the population who were discriminated against. What steps would be taken to break the neutrality of policies promoting equality in a society in which identities were only vaguely defined? Citing a study published by Oxfam, Mr. Albuquerque e Silva noted that 43 per cent of the persons who spoke an indigenous language did not finish primary school and only 8.5 per cent concluded higher education studies. It seemed that inequality in access to opportunities fed off discrimination and racism, he remarked.
It was regrettable that the statistics were not broken down by indigenous groups and that official data on the number of Afro-Mexicans had been published for the first time in 2015. What was the efficiency of policies that had been designed on the basis of those data, he wondered and asked whether Afro-Mexicans had been consulted on those policies. What was the percentage of indigenous peoples and people of African descent among the prison population and among judges?
Poverty in Mexico had a colour and a race, the Country Rapporteur said. Noting that 71.9 per cent of the indigenous population lived in poverty, he inquired about efforts to address socio-economic disadvantages and social marginalization of indigenous peoples and people of African descent. Agrarian justice was hampered by very long procedures, which only exacerbated intra and inter-community conflicts. What was being done to deal with land disputes and to assist internally displaced families? What system had been put in place to guarantee the enjoyment of the right to free, prior, and informed consultation, especially when mega projects were concerned, and to ensure that the provisions of the International Labour Organization Convention 169 were scrupulously respected?
Turning to human rights defenders, Mr. Albuquerque e Silva welcomed Mexico’s advanced legislation on this matter, notably to Law on Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. And yet, human rights defenders were often victimized for carrying out legitimate activities; the situation had worsened in the past few years and impunity remained the main challenge. What was being done to address the existing gaps in the National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists?
Moving on to migration issues, the Country Rapporteur requested the delegation to explain the use of the National Guard in migration-related matters. Noting that this body had been created in early 2019 to in the north of the country to stop the flow of migrants to the United States border, he asked whether the National Guard was a new military of police force mandated with migration matters. What were the criteria and the legal basis of the measures relative to the detention and expulsion of migrants and their families, the Rapporteur demanded, referencing in particular the deployment of nearly 15,000 soldiers and members of the National Guard on 24 June 2019. Raising concern about the rise in hate speech against migrants, the Rapporteur asked the delegation to provide the figures on the registered cases of missing migrants and how many of those were being investigated.
Finally, Mr. Albuquerque e Silva remarked on the vulnerability of disadvantaged groups to impacts of climate change and asked how the national climate change policies protected the rights of indigenous peoples and people of African descent.
Questions by the Committee Experts
GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, welcomed Mexico’s follow-up report to previous concluding observations of March 2012 and the quality of the responses provided.
Other Experts pointed out that three journalists had been killed last week in Mexico and requested information on the 34 investigations into the deaths of journalists and human rights defenders mentioned in the report. They sought clarification about the binding nature of consultations conducted by the State party and inquired about the impact of the austerity policies on allocation of funds for indigenous women. Violence and poverty were linked to discrimination, Experts said, demanding disaggregated data on victims of violence. It would be useful if the delegation indicated the racial indicators that would be used in the context of their efforts to assist the indigenous, Afro-Mexican and migrant populations.
Another Expert, turning to the National Development Plan, enquired about the assessment of its results and the future intentions. Would there be consultations on the next phase of the plan and, if so, what kind? What was Mexico’s position concerning the ratification of the International Labour Organization He also asked if the Government had plans to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention C189 concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers?
How could the discrepancy between female and male illiteracy rate be explained, an Expert enquired, asking the delegation to comment on this phenomenon’s impact, notably on Afro-Mexican and indigenous women? What was being done to address bullying and how did the curriculum in Mexico inculcate respect and address stereotypes? What was the impact of the campaigns to combat hate speech on social media? The delegation was asked to explain the linkages between the indigenous justice and the national justice system.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the Government had used the 2017 survey on discrimination as a baseline, and, with an innovative methodological approach, it would seek to understand how the cycle of prejudice happened. The survey had showed that people’s skin tone played an important role when it came to discrimination and that physical appearance was the main ground that people indicated as a ground for discrimination. The national policy on discrimination aimed to address the root causes of discrimination. Five priority areas had been identified in that context, including labour, healthcare, and access to justice. There was an anti-discrimination clause in local or state constitutions in 29 federal units, however, since great discrepancies still existed across the country, the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination was working to level out the various provisions. Many local authorities did not have the political will or resources to put in place bodies that could hear complaints based on these anti-discrimination legal provisions.
Between 2014 and 2018, a total of 278 complaints of discrimination had been filed with the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, of which 32 were still pending. The National Council had been given the power to issue decisions and some of its important cases had reached courts and set significant precedents. On affirmative action, it was important to note that, behind structural discrimination, was an imbalance of power; that was why, in the last electoral cycle, certain seats had been reserved for indigenous peoples. For the next federal election, this measure would be extended to indigenous districts.
The delegation acknowledged that Mexico’s health system was fragmented and that some segments of the population, usually those most vulnerable, received worse health care services. Turning to poverty and racism, the delegation said the illiteracy rate was higher amongst Afro-Mexicans and people who spoke indigenous languages – 3.1 per cent among the general population and more than 13 per cent among the indigenous peoples. More than 69 per cent of the indigenous peoples lived in poverty.
In the past months, Mexico had registered an increase in xenophobic and hate speech, especially targeting migrants. Recognizing the importance of education and information in tackling this issue, Mexico had put in place various campaigns against hate speech, including the campaign based on the European Union’s No Hate Campaign and the other involving young people. Work had been done to develop an advertisement strategy, working with advertising agencies to address the discriminatory components that were sometimes included in advertisements, as complaints in that regard had been filed.
The Government had carried out various inquiries since November 2017 on Afro-Mexicans and a proposition had been made that the term “African-American” be included in the 2020 census. It was necessary to raise awareness among the population about what it meant to be an African-American. In an unprecedented move, the Government had set up a specialized body to support indigenous peoples and the Afro-Mexican population. This body would work in coordination with these populations to ensure the full enjoyment of their rights. In that context, various programmes had been put in place to support education, climate change adaptation, access to credit, and capacity building in indigenous and Afro-Mexican communities. Regional Indigenous Councils had been set up so they could participate in the design of policies.
Regarding the National Development Plan 2019-2024, the delegation said that the authorities had set up a consultation process with indigenous peoples and Afro-Mexicans to ensure that the Plan was relevant to them and met their needs. At the national level, 25 fora had been held in which over 20,000 people from indigenous communities had taken part. The National Plan was complemented by regional plans which should also involve indigenous people in their design and implementation.
On constitutional reforms and amendments, the delegation explained that the legislative process was still evolving and that there were ongoing consultations on constitutional reforms to strengthen the rights of Afro-Mexicans and indigenous peoples. An expert technical body had been set up for this consultation, staffed with people who had worked on the issue of rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-Mexicans at the national and regional levels. The expert body had issued its opinion and proposals on the way in which the consultation should be carried out. In collaboration with that expert body, the Government had designed guidelines for the constitutional reforms, aiming to bring the Constitution into line with the international conventions.
Mexico was also working to include in the Constitution the principle of free, prior and informed consultation, to which the country remained committed, said a delegate and recalled that according to the ruling of the Supreme Court, the right to free, prior, and informed consultation enshrined in the International Labour Organization Convention 169 relative to indigenous and tribal peoples was legally binding domestically. Furthermore, in its rulings, the Supreme Court was very sympathetic to the protection of the rights of women and children and to upholding the principle of the best interest of the child. Unlike the federal courts, local courts did not publish their rulings, the delegation explained.
As of July 2019, some 6,000 indigenous peoples were in prison, representing approximately 3.3 per cent of the prison population. The Government, working along with the National Commission for Human Rights, ensured that visits were conducted in prisons. Family visits were allowed equally without any form of discrimination. Video visits had also been put in place in various detention centres. As stipulated by the Constitution, preventive detention could not surpass two years. The delegation said that 49 of the 608 judges, or eight per cent, self-declared as indigenous and were native speakers of indigenous languages. Rather than hiring private attorneys, Mexico preferred to work with public defenders and there were also public defenders at the local level.
The delegation acknowledged that it was possible that there were cases of corruption in the justice system and stressed that those were rather an exception. Mexico maintained zero tolerance policy to judicial corruption.
Turning to the situation of indigenous women, the delegation said that Mexico had put in place affirmative action measures such as quotas for the participation of indigenous peoples on representative bodies. In the State of Oaxaca, steps had been taken to allow trans indigenous women to benefit from the quota system. The Government had allocated 4 million dollars to the eradication of early pregnancies, which disproportionately affected indigenous women. The delegation acknowledged the shortcomings in the legal systems as far as the protection of women from gender-based violence was concerned and said that the Government was working with the National Women’s Institute to implement a pilot programme to resolve those issues.
The laws on migration guaranteed all foreigners the enjoyment of all rights without discrimination. In that regard, access to consular representatives and, if appropriate, a legal counsel was ensured. The National Guard was civil body, trained in human rights, and it could be deployed to resolve migratory issues. The Government was seeking to strengthen this training through an agreement it had recently signed with the Office of the High Commissioner for human rights. To combat racial discrimination in migration management, the National Migration Institute’s tools and capacity had been strengthened. More than 5,000 of its officers had received training in non-discrimination and respect for human rights.
Questions by Committee Experts
SILVIO JOSÉ ALBUQUERQUE E SILVA, Committee Rapporteur for Mexico, requested information on the case of Marco Tulio Perdomo Guzmán and on a migrant from Haiti whose name had not been made public. Regarding the latter case, the Committee had respectfully requested that an investigation be launched. He drew the delegation’s attention to the vulnerability of indigenous agricultural day workers and noted that, in some cases, their work conditions could amount to forced labour.
Mr. Albuquerque e Silva said that legal language was impenetrable and could be used to assert power. In that regard, those who did not speak Spanish had to face an even greater challenge. He urged Mexico to continue to translate laws from Spanish to indigenous languages and to translate the legal jargon into everyday language to make it better understood by the users of legal system.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that the National Guard had entered in an agreement with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to meet the highest standards in the respect for human rights. Regarding the Haitian citizen, it was important to note that Mexico was under strain due to migration flows. Some migratory flows had increased fivefold, bringing Mexican institutional capacity to a breaking point, and that was why the Government was seeking international assistance in dealing with migration fluxes. The Prosecutor’s Office had attorneys who had specialized in people seeking international protection.
A civilian consultation was different from the right to indigenous consultation, which needed to be recognized and supported. The Government was examining the way in which consultation of indigenous peoples could be included in the Constitution. In the process of conducting consultations on constitutional reforms, it was also conducting a reflection on the reach that the indigenous system should have.
Turning to day workers, the delegation said that Mexican law ensured access to justice system, regardless of migratory status. If the Committee had specific information regarding cases, it would be important that it be communicated to Mexican authorities.
SILVIO JOSÉ ALBUQUERQUE E SILVA, Committee Rapporteur for Mexico, in his concluding remarks thanked the delegation and underscored the good disposition with which it had answered the Committee’s questions.
MARTHA DELGADO PERALTA, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, in her conclusion, expressed pride regarding Mexico’s achievements and recognized the remaining challenges. Mexico was seriously committed to human rights and the fight against racism, she reiterated.
NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, concluded by thanking the delegation and congratulated it for the quality of its responses.