Congressman Lowenthal Calls On State Dept. To Prioritize Human Rights and Justice Reform In Bilateral Talks With Mexico

August 10, 2016
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today, along with 68 of his House colleagues, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to put strengthening the rule of law and defense of human rights at the top of the U.S. bilateral agenda with Mexico.

The letter expresses concern over the 27,000 unresolved cases of people who have disappeared in Mexico since 2007, and the slow pace of reform in the Mexican military, law enforcement, and justice sectors.

Also highlighted in the letter are the disturbing revelations in a recent Amnesty International report which found that the use of torture in criminal investigations by Mexican authorities is persistent.

"We encourage you to raise with Mexican authorities the importance of respecting human rights, completing competent investigations, and bringing to justice those who violate human rights," Congressman Lowenthal wrote in the letter.

In May of this year Congressman Lowenthal organized a Congressional briefing to highlight one of the more egregious of the unresolved cases—the disappearance of 43 students who vanished in September 2014 while in the custody of Mexico's security forces in the town of Iguala, Guerrero. The briefing featured testimony from members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), which assisted the Government of Mexico's investigation into the students' disappearance. The group detailed the findings of their final report, which highlighted avenues of inquiry never followed in the Mexican government's investigation and detailed the almost certainty that Mexican law enforcement officials engaged in evidence tampering and the torture of suspects in their failed attempt to solve the disappearances.

"The only conclusion that one can draw from the report is the Mexican justice system, beyond these 43 cases, needs a systematic overhaul," Congressman Lowenthal said at the time. "It is beyond frustrating that the Mexican government has not acknowledged the recommendations in this report that could lead to a more effective, successful, and equitable criminal justice system in Mexico."

In the letter to Secretary Kerry, Congressman Lowenthal states that despite recent legislative efforts by the Mexican government to advance human rights protections and reform the justice system, "having good laws on the books does not ensure justice."

"Mr. Secretary," the letter concludes, "as you work to continue to strengthen the United States' important relationship with our ally and neighbor, we strongly encourage you to emphasize the need for Mexico to effectively combat human rights abuses."

To read the full text of the letter, click here.