Mexico: UN expert urges action on behalf of internally displaced people

Mexico: UN expert urges action on behalf of internally displaced people

With Mexico facing ongoing difficulties with its internally displaced people, a United Nations human rights expert today called on the Government to expedite action on their behalf.

Just back from the country, Francis Deng, the Secretary-General's Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, concluded that "protection and assistance problems prevail" there. He welcomed the Government's stated intention to address the needs of the internally displaced persons, who are largely concentrated in Chiapas.

That region, he noted, was the scene of the 1994 Zapatista uprising, 1995 counter-insurgency operations by the military and the 1997 massacre in the village of Acteal by paramilitary groups. In addition, Chiapas continues to be plagued by "on-going harassment and intimidation by groups described by some as paramilitary and by the Government and others as armed civilian and criminal elements [as well as] acts of religions intolerance by extremist groups, disputes over land and drug trafficking." The Government currently lacks access to areas under the control of the Zapatistas, who persistently reject any State aid.

Mr. Deng hailed current government efforts to formulate a policy on internal displacement, and urged the Mexican authorities to expedite this process. Mexico was also called on to make its policy and coordination structures known to the international community and to request UN and international cooperation in response to the needs of the displaced, especially in areas that the Government cannot access.

While noting that the promotion of peace is beyond his mandate, the Representative pointed out that "the best remedy to the crisis of internal displacement would be the achievement of peace and national reconciliation, which, in turn, depend on addressing the underlying causes of the conflict." He called for efforts to break the impasse between the Government and work towards reconciling their differences.

During his visit to Mexico, which included a stop in Chiapas and ran from 18 to 27 August, Mr. Deng met with numerous government officials, UN workers and displaced persons themselves.