Mexico is Failing its Human Rights Defenders

Heidi Hautala addressed on 29.3. Conference concerning the human rights situation in Mexico, organised by Peace Brigades International, German Human Rights Network Mexico and the Greens/EFA Group. In particular, the rights and protection of human rights defenders was discussed by the participants. [:]

The discussion took place against a grim, even desperate background as the scale of violence is at its current level is unprecedented. According to a Mexican government database of deaths over the period of four years, the period since President Felipe Calderòn took office, the total number of people dead of violence is staggering 34,612. The number consists of drug gang members, security forces and innocent bystanders. Death toll for 2010 was 15,237, the highest number so far.

Much of this violence stems from confrontations between state security forces and organized crime on the one hand, and clashes among criminal groups on the other. While the challenges of Mexican authorities was appreciated in discussing the issues of security and rule of law in their country, emphasis was also put on the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and ensure respect for their rights.

In her intervention, Chairwoman Hautala noted indeed that it is very much evident that Mexico suffers of multitude of problems in the area of human security and rights, beyond the remit of organized crime. Impunity for human rights violations by the state forces is pervasive. This free reign of abuse is indeed one of the main silencer of the critical voices in Mexico; journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders have all been harassed, persecuted and killed by these lawless bands.

She paid particular attention to the events of 27 April 2010, when human rights defenders Beatriz Alberta Cariño from Mexico and Jyri Antero Jaakkola from Finland were killed outside the village of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca. They were taking supplies to the village that remains due to violent conflicts cut off from the outside world. These murders must be effectively investigated and those responsible must be brought to justice. Hautala emphasised that in pressuring the Mexican authorities to carry out an effective investigation and ensure accountability for this crime, the situation on the whole would be tackled. When situation is challenging, it is sometimes best to take it up by way of an individual case.

In the Conference Ms Hautala also discussed the obligations of the EU in this regard, and in particular how the EU implements its guidelines for the protection of national and international human rights defenders. The scope and instructions of the guidelines are clear, she stressed. It is up to the EU delegation to ensure that the several concrete recommendations are put in practice. To ensure success, it is vitally important to cooperate closely with the civil society to this end.