Mexico: UN and regional experts call for peace after violent election campaign

GENEVA/WASHINGTON D.C. (8 June 2021) – After a deadly election campaign, UN and Organization of American States (OAS) human rights experts* today called on Mexican authorities to make sure the post-election period is peaceful, and to investigate killings and human rights violations in the run-up to the Sunday vote, as well as polling day itself.

“We call on Mexican authorities to put an end to the intense polarisation of public life and to ensure that future elections are held peacefully,” the experts said. “We call for full and transparent investigations into the killings of political candidates and into the many violations of human rights that occurred during the campaign and on election day. This is the only way for Mexico to move forward democratically.”

“In spite of the violence surrounding the electoral period we recognise the efforts of the government to counteract violence, including the recent implementation of a strategy to curb political violence and threats against candidates, and the genuine efforts to ensure that no voter was discriminated against” the experts said.

With more than 20,000 seats up for election, it was Mexico’s biggest election ever. Mexicans voted for 500 members of the lower house of congress and 15 governors of states, as well as thousands of local officials.

There have been at least 250 political murders since last September during the run-up to the campaign and the campaign itself. The victims include at least 89 politicians and 35 candidates, as well as their relatives, journalists and non-political civil servants. In addition, there were at least 782 other politically motivated attacks – ranging from death threats to attempted murder – against politicians. Many candidates dropped out, citing fears for their lives.

“We had hoped never again to see the staggering levels of violence reached in the 2018 elections, and yet this year has been, if anything, even worse,” said the experts. “Serious action must be taken immediately to support democratic institutions to make sure this violence is not repeated during the presidential election in 2024.

“The right to life is absolutely fundamental, and candidates should be able to campaign without fear for their life,” they said. “Mexico must also respect, protect and fulfil the rights to free association and participation in the political process, including the right of citizens to elect the candidate of their choice.”

The experts expressed concern at persistence of discriminatory patterns operated by political stakeholders, especially against women and traditionally marginalised groups such as indigenous peoples.

They expressed particular concern about the unprecedented level of violence against women, including women journalists. Attacks on women – including sexual violence – accounted for more than a third of all attacks reported during the campaign.

The campaign highlighted a number of other human rights issues, the experts said, including the alleged participation of organised crime in the campaign and intimidation leading to self-censorship among journalists, which hampers citizens’ ability to make informed political decisions.

The experts also underlined the important role played by independent electoral institutions in any free and fair elections: “they are vital for preventing electoral fraud and therefore should be protected from any undue pressure, intimidation or threats”.

“The package of measures to ensure a peaceful, democratic life in Mexico must include full and effective investigations into all acts of violence related to the electoral process, justice and reparations for victims, as well as measures to ensure that future elections are peaceful and comply with international human rights standards,” the experts concluded.


*The experts: Mr. Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;  Ms.Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Ms.Dubravka ŠimonovicSpecial Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Ms.Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Ms.Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Ms.Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Ms.Ivana Radačić, and Ms.Meskerem Geset Techane 

Mr. Pedro Vaca Villarreal Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the OAS is the IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system. 

UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.