UN expert: fighting impunity and settling accounts is the best roadmap for the protection of defenders in Mexico

UN expert: fighting impunity and settling accounts is the best roadmap for the protection of defenders in Mexico

Published by Centro Prodh

GENEVA / MEXICO, January 24th 2017.- The UN Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, today concluded his official visit to Mexico, January 16th to 24th. The main purpose of the visit was to determine whether those who defend human rights in Mexico feel safe and able to carry out their activities.

After traveling from Mexico City to the States of Chihuahua, Guerrero, Oaxaca and the State of Mexico, the UN Independent Expert noted “a high level of insecurity and violence that defenders face in the country” in a context marked by organized crime, corruption and state repression.

“The situation of human rights defenders is conditioned by the criminalization of their activities by the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of punitive power by both state and non-state actors to prevent or avoid legitimate activities led by the defenders for the promotion and protection of human rights” said Mr Forst.

“They have also used arbitrary arrests and detentions as a tool to silence dissent voices and curb social movements. In many cases, human rights defenders are criminalized for reporting offenses committed by the authorities and face indirect retaliation through attacks or criminal prosecution of their families or loved ones” the rapporteur added.

After meeting more than 800 defenders from 24 states, 60 per cent of whom were women, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern that 98 per cent of crimes in Mexico remained unresolved.

Mr Forst stressed that “the paltry rate of success of investigations and resolution of crimes against human rights defenders has given rise to a feeling of widespread impunity. The lack of investigation and punishment of the perpetrators sends a dangerous message that there would be no consequences for committing such crimes. This creates an environment conducive to the repetition of offenses.”

“Impunity has become both the cause and effect of the general insecurity of human rights defenders in Mexico. Impunity fuels the criminalization of defenders linked to their legitimate human rights activities, which in turn feeds fear in civil society in general, which eventually weakens the general aspirations of human rights and the rule of law” the independent expert said.

“The best protection available to human rights defenders is when justice is done and the perpetrators are held to account” Forst said.

“The preliminary report that I present today contains a series of recommendations addressed to the various stakeholders. Without our joint efforts, Mexico will not be able to overcome the obstacles and risks currently faced by human rights defenders to protect them effectively and thus protect the fundamental work which they are aiming to achieve in order to build a democratic society.” Michel Forst concluded by reaffirming his willingness to provide assistance to all stakeholders in the fight against impunity and to ensure the protection of defenders in Mexico.

Michel Forst (France) was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders by the Human Rights Council in June 2014. Mr Forst has extensive experience in the themes concerning human rights, including the situation of human rights defenders, the rights of children with disabilities and the elderly, and extreme poverty. He has held leadership positions in the French National Advisory Commission on Human Rights, the CIMADE Committee, the UNESCO World Summit on Defenders (Paris) and Amnesty International (France).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of the “Special Procedures”, the largest group of independent experts in the UN system for human rights, which brings together research and monitoring mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to deal with country-specific situations or thematic issues on a global scale. Experts in special procedures work as volunteers; therefore, they are not part of the staff of the United Nations and do not receive salaries for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and act individually.