The News
Saturday 13 of April 2024

Human Rights: Beyond a Report

The use of the armed forces to respond to serious situations of deteriorating security has been an inevitable resource that poses risks of various kinds

Harsh were the words of Isabel Miranda de Wallace when she refuted the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) about the situation of Mexico.  Besides pointing out tha the report does not reflect reality, she regretted that such a flawed investigation is being used as a reference to make a judgement on such an important and delicate issue as the situation of human rights in Mexico. Miranda de Wallace, president of the Stop Kidnapping organization, deplored the fact that an organ of the importance of the commission has led to an undesirable controversy over the inexplicable omission of specifying, from the beginning, the methodological limitations of the exercise.

The debate should have focused on human rights, not on the report itself. It is true that the impunity  that exists is one of the most important causes for the shortcomings in our implementation of human rights. So is the indifference to the law, not only the indifference shown by the authorities tasked with our security and justice, but also that born of society’s indifference to the basic code of civility that gives full effect to the law. The situation of human rights has always been a problem precisely because of this crisis of legality. It is a challenge for the authorities but also for the whole of society, mainly because many people, far from seeing the law as a guarantee or protection, consider it an unjust and authoritarian imposition of the ruler.

The CIDH report states that the human rights crisis is a consequence of the impunity that persists from what they call the Dirty War that began during the previous administration.  I think that this statement is inaccurate and that the situation is much more complex, since the difficulties in matters of human rights precede the actions of the previous administration in confronting organized crime. In addition, what is stated in the report refers only to one dimension of the problem, the one associated with criminal justice.

It is easy to resort to partial judgment and summary sentences from the outside. Thus, it is regrettable that the report of the commission disqualifies the effort that the country has long made to enforce human rights. A critical assessment is useful, as is the need for improvement or the marking of events, places and situations that compromise the effectiveness of the institutions. However, it is also necessary to observe the context and the historical process in order to avoid partial recommendations. As such, the words of Miranda de Wallace are accurate, in the sense that the subject, because of its importance, demands judgments of higher quality and not to admit generalizations from partial observations in the double meaning of the word: loaded with prejudice and limited in their geography.

The reality is that you can’t, and you shouldn’t, minimize the challenge of giving full effect to human rights and effective channels for actions against individuals and structural situations. Again, one of the reasons to ensure the validity of these rights is the precarious culture of legality in the system, which is reflected in the inability of the authorities to bring the criminals to justice, among other things.

One of the objectives we need to advance in the realization of human rights is breaking with the false dilemma between safety and legality. In that sense, there can be no justice outside the premises of due process. There are no alibis for safety. It is understandable that society demands and wait for the authorities to show results in improving the criminal justice system. And that involves the whole of it: preventive and proximity police, criminal investigation officers, prosecutors, and the justice and prison system. The whole process should be under the law. Effective police is that who cooperate with judicial authorities and courts in order to give effect to legal justice.

The use of the armed forces to respond to serious situations of deteriorating security has been an inevitable resource that poses risks of various kinds. The Army cannot replace the police under civil command. Its intervention must be temporary and extraordinary. Unfortunately, the institutional weakness of local governments, especially that of municipal governments, has promoted police and enforcement agencies inferior to those required when facing organized crime. In situations of absence of government the intervention of armed forces is understandable.

Because of this situation, it is crucial that Congress responds to the presidential initiative on a new police model. However, the solution involves not only adopting new rules and establishing new organizational models to redefine powers. It also demands a significant financial investment, up to the size of the problem. It is clear that a police officer without a living wage, with no equipment or training, without reasons to accomplish what he must, can easily turn against the society that he should serve. The problem is not widespread but it is not isolated. It occurs in many parts precisely because of the financial crisis in many of the country’s municipalities.

Not everything that refers to a better security system can be solved with money. The leadership and mysticism of the civil authorities and senior police chiefs are essential. Either way, it is necessary that Congress defines the basis for the financing of the issue posed by law. Otherwise, the amendment will not achieve its objectives.

Human rights are the result of an effective government and a society that has internalized the foundations of civility. Everything points to legality and the time has come to assume it in all of its aspects and implications.

The country has achieved historic goals in recent decades, including democratic normality and following an economic model that ensures stability. Now, there are two outstanding issues: better social justice and better criminal justice. The first aims to create a fairer economy and opportunities. The second hopes to achieve the full rule of law.