¨Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.¨ (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 1963)
The Mexican government and its allies in the U.S and beyond will be put on trial before an International Tribunal of Conscience which will meet in New York City on Friday September 25 and Saturday September 26, 2015. Conveners include internationally renowned intellectuals and human rights scholars such as Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Boaventura Sousa de Santos, Greg Grandin of the History Department and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University (NYU, who together are hosting the event), former UN Special Rapporteurs Rodolfo Stavenhagen and Jorge Bustamante, the National Lawyers´ Guild, the International Association of People´s Lawyers (IAPL and its Mexican branch), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, IBON International, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, and the Tribunal´s principal sponsor, the network of U.S-Mexico human rights advocates known as Fuerza Mundial Global. Jurors will include participants from the U.S, Mexico, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
The current human rights crisis in Mexico is unprecedented in the country´s history in terms of scale, depth, extent (over 140,000 dead and 27,000 disappeared since 2007, not including a still unknown number of disappeared migrants): Mexico is the single worst violator of human rights in Western Hemisphere and one of the most egregious in the world.
The initiative to convene the Tribunal grew out of the caravan in the U.S in March and April 2015, and subsequently in Europe, of representatives of parents and students from Ayotzinapa in the Mexican region of Guerrero. 43 students from the Rural Teacher´s College there, mostly from the country´s poorest indigenous communities, were victims of the single worst incident of forced disappearances in recent Latin American history in September 2014.
This special session of the International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples In Movement (ITCPM) is timed to coincide with the first anniversary of this incident, and with this year´s opening session of the UN General Assembly, and will be dedicated to solidarity with the Ayotzinapa case. From the perspective of the conveners of the Tribunal, the Ayotzinapa case is illustrative, not exceptional: the Mexican government typically seeks to position itself as a victim of drug-related violence, but like its Colombian counterpart, is in fact the perpetrator of, or complicit in, most serious violations of human rights.
The focus of the hearings in New York will be on Mexico´s deepening human rights crisis in all of its relevant dimensions, including the role of U.S aid (over $3 billion dollars in military, police and other aid directly related to the so-called ¨drug war¨ since 2007 through the ¨Mérida Initiative¨, which many analysts consider analogous to ¨Plan Colombia¨, plus over $4 billion in arms sales) and that of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is of course U.S support which keeps the current Mexican régime afloat, and which is thus the single most decisive factor in sustaining prevailing impunity and repression. The impact of such aid and of foreign investment on intensifying human rights violations has been intensively debated by the European Parliament as well.
Another key priority of these hearings will be an examination of persistent serious human rights violations against immigrants of Mexican origin in the U.S, and against migrants in transit from Central America and beyond on Mexican territory, including the implications and impact of a continuing exodus of migrant children and youth. The Tribunal´s mandate includes exploration of the relationship between current human rights crisis in Mexico and the crisis in the U.S as to police violence, mass incarceration, and racial injustice, including how these two crises converge within the context of issues as to immigrant rights in the U.S (abuse of deadly force by ICE, Border Patrol, local and state police; detention policies and practices, profiling, deportations, separation of families, impact on children and youth, e.g Dreamers)
Another key aspect of the Tribunal´s mandate is to explore the relationship between the impact of U.S policy in Mexico and the impact of related U.S policies (free trade, drug war, and other forms of intervention) throughout Latin America, incuding key cases such as Central America, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Colombia.
The ITCPM´s initial hearings were held in Quito, Ecuador and Mexico City in October and November 2010, within the framework of the World Social Forum on Migration (WSFM, Quito), and as a response from migrant movements and their defenders from throughout the world to the convening in Mexico of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). The emphasis of the ITCPM between 2011 and 2014 has been on supporting and participating in the 3 year process of hearings organized by the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) regarding serious human rights violations in Mexico. The upcoming hearings in NY are intended to follow up on the PPT´s conclusions and recommendations regarding these issues, as well as those of international human rights monitors within the framework of the UN, Inter-American and European human rights systems, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Mexico´s national network of human rights organizations, and those of their partners and supporters throughout the world. This will include the application of related standards pursuant to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and to the work of critical scholars of human rights and international law.
The Tribunal is grounded in the tradition and approach of tribunals of conscience pioneered by the Russell Tribunal of the 1960´s, which sought to apply the Nuremburg Principles to U.S war crimes and crimes against humanity in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and that of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal and similar tribunals focused on specific contexts such as Iraq, Palestine, and the Philippines.
The lives, histories, legacies, hopes and destinies of the people of Mexico and the people of the U.S are irreversibly intertwined, as are those of both peoples, and those of Canada, with all of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the rest of the world. Please join us in NY!
Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, J.D, is coordinator of the ITCPM´s international secretariat, Research Professor at FLACSO in Guatemala, and a Fellow of the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) which is based at the University of Bergen