It is our pleasure to send you our best regards along with our newsletter, with an update regarding the work of PBI in Mexico, the situation of human rights defenders whom PBI accompanies, and other issues relevant to the defence and promotion of human rights.
35th Anniversary of Peace Brigades International
Peace Brigades International (PBI) marks 35 years of work in conflict and post-conflict areas. To mark the occasion, we produced this video that shows another perspective on PBI's work in different countries and the importance of our support network to guarantee the protection of at-risk Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).
Find out more about how you can support PBI’s work in Mexico here: bit.ly/DonatePBI.
Families of Disappeared Persons: General Law must include National Search Commission
On 22 August, a Forum was organised regarding the General Law against Disappearances, foreseen to be approved by congress during the next legislative period. Convened by the Iberoamerican University and the Coahuila State Government, the initiative was attended by academics, representatives of CSOs, relatives of disappeared people, and state and federal public officials.
During the event, Marcia Aguiluz, from CEJIL, underlined that most Latin American countries have civil society representatives with actual decision making capacity within the institutions in charge of searching for the disappeared. Undersecretary for Human Rights, Roberto Campa Cifrián, mentioned that “this Law is imperative”, and Senator Angelica de la Peña stated that “this Law is a priority”, adding that she is “convinced that the National Search Commission must be a part of it”.
Notwithstanding, Diana Iris García, member of FUNDEM and mother of a disappeared man from Coahuila, asserted that “political will has not been seen”. Her colleague from FUNDEM, Yolanda Morán, added that “it didn't receive the same priority as other bills”. Michael Chamberlin, sub-director of the Fray Juan de Larios DHRC – organisation that advises FUNDEM and is accompanied by PBI – insisted that “this cannot be a zero-budget-impact law”.
At the end of the Forum, the Dean of the University delivered to Roberto Campa and Angelica de la Peña a document that substantiates arguments for the creation of a National Search Commission.
Cerezo Committee: 15 years defending Human Rights
On 13 August the Cerezo Committee celebrated their 15th anniversary with a series of activities. PBI, which has accompanied the Committee since 2002, was present during the ceremony and congratulates the organisation for their commitment towards the defence of Human Rights in Mexico.
On 24 August, the Cerezo Committee, together with the Urgent Action for Human Rights Defenders (ACUDDEH) and the National Campaign Against Enforced Disappearance presented their fifth report on Human Rights violations against Human Rights Defenders. PBI was also present during the launch of the report, which documents 968 cases of aggressions against HRDs between May 2015 and June 2016, an increase of 108 cases from the previous report. The states with the highest record of incidents were Oaxaca (176), Michoacan (115) and Guerrero (124). Pursuant to these findings, PBI highlights the importance and need for the Mexican authorities to publicly recognise the legitimacy of the work of HRDs.
Read the report “Defending Human Rights in Mexico: The Normalisation of political repression”.
On 8 and 9 August, PBI coordinated the visit of the Finnish Embassy in Mexico to the state of Oaxaca, where our Southern Team is based. According to the Mesoamerican Initiative for Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), between 2012 and 2016 there were over 600 attacks against Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), thus ranking Oaxaca as the state with the highest number of aggressions against WHRDs in Mexico.
It was with this context in mind that the Embassy visited the home of defender Yolanda Perez Cruz, where they met with members of CIPO-RFM (the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca Ricardo Flores Magón). Consorcio Oaxaca also set up a meeting with WHRDs whose risk situation has significantly increased since the Teachers' Conflicts triggered in the state, particularly since the events in Nochixtlán. Additionally, during the second day of the visit, the Embassy met with Código DH and Educa, both organisations accompanied by PBI.
PBI welcomes the initiative of the Finnish Embassy to visit the state of Oaxaca and meet with Human Rights Organisations, an action realised under the framework of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. Given the current context that suggests a tendency of closing spaces for Civil Society – highlighted by several international bodies – such actions are significant for their message of recognition and support that HRDs receive, an aspect that contributes to their protection.
Tlachinollan: 22 years working for Human Rights in Guerrero
PBI accompanies Tita Radilla to meeting with SEGOB on the Radilla Pacheco case
In August, PBI visited the offices of AFADEM (Association of Relatives of the Detained, Disappeared, and Victims of Human Rights Violations in Mexico), located in Atoyac de Álvarez, Guerrero. Our volunteers observed a meeting of the organisation with the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB) to follow-up on the compliance of the obligation to provide medical assistance to the Radilla family as part of the reparation pursuant to the judgment in the case of Rosendo Radilla Pacheco, a victim of enforced disappearance during the Dirty War. The encounter took place a few weeks before a hearing which will be carried out by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on 7 September to monitor the compliance of the ruling that dates from 2009. During a previous session regarding the investigation and sanctioning of the case, the Court stated that “in spite of the fact that the State has carried out several efforts when it comes to the scanning and excavation proceedings, the investigation did not fully count with the drive of the State”. The fifth excavations of the former military barracks of Atoyac took place in November 2015, and since then then the proceedings remain pending.
Within the same visit to Guerrero, PBI held meetings with the organisations Morelos y Pavon HRC, and Community Development Workshop (TADECO), both of which face a worrying risk situation derived from their work on the issue of disappearances. Being the driving organisation behind the Committee of Relatives and Friends of Kidnapped, Disappeared and Assassinated in Guerrero, TADECO receives federal protection measures as a result of death threats received in March 2016. On the other hand, Morelos y Pavon accompanies several groups of relatives of disappeared people, amongst which “Siempre Vivos”, whose spokesperson is also a beneficiary of federal protection measures due to the risk linked to the active search for the victims of a massive disappearance that took place in 2015 in the municipality of Chilapa.
Preventative Alert from Protection Mechanism to Inhibit Attacks on HRDs in Chihuahua
On 15 August, CSOs from Chihuahua called a press conference to announce the adoption of a preventative alert for HRDs and journalists in the state. The organisations underlined the fact that Chihuahua is “the state with the highest number of human rights defenders murdered (at least 19), the second highest number of journalists murdered and accounts for 30% of all precautionary measures adopted by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights”.
Following the request made on 7 March – with the backing of 24 CSOs of Chihuahua and addressed to the Undersecretary for Human Rights, Roberto Campa Cifrián – a process of analysis was initiated by the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB), which led to the production of an official Diagnostic on the situation of HRDs and journalists in the state of Chihuahua. The grave situation of gender and sexual violence, and the threats and attacks against the HRDs that accompany these cases is described in detail in the report. It concludes that “it is necessary for the federation and the federal entities to carry out an effective, strategic and coordinated effort to enable systematic and far-reaching preventative initiatives to be developed, in an exercise of democratic shared responsibility which involves the affected populations”.
This is an unprecedented alert in Mexico, and the first of its kind to be adopted for both HRDs and journalists, as well as being distinguished by an emphasis on gender and geographical location. In addition to attending the press conference, PBI will be monitoring the implementation of this alert.
Accompaniments in the Sierra Tarahumara
On 6 August, PBI volunteers accompanied members of Community Technical Consultancy (CONTEC) on their visit to the forests of San Elías Repechique in order to share the latest developments with the local community in the judicial process on the construction of the Copper Canyon Airport in the Sierra Tarahumara of Chihuahua, which was carried out without the prior consultation legally required by Convention 169 of the ILO and the Mexican Constitution for projects affecting the territory of indigenous communities. In an official statement, the organisation highlighted the lack of political will on the part of the State Government of Chihuahua to comply with the agreement reached between the community and the government on repayment of damages to the community.
On 19 August, volunteers from the northern team returned to the Sierra Tarahumara to accompany the organisations Tierra Nativa, COSYDDHAC and CONTEC at a meeting of the Copper Canyon Regional Consultative Council. Various issues were covered in the meeting in relation to the tourism project, which led local communities to write an official letter to President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2014. Miguel Manuel Parra, spokesperson for the Mogótavo, Bacajípari and Wetosachi communities, highlighted the importance of protecting the environment and the traditional ways of life of the Sierra Tarahumara, which are being affected by this form of tourism, without any benefit whatsoever to the local populations.
Visit to El Paso and Ciudad Juarez focused on Displaced Persons
For the first time since its opening, our Northern Team paid a visit to El Paso, Texas (a border city adjacent to Ciudad Juarez) in order to attend meetings with various HRDs. There they met with Mexicanos en el Exilio (Mexicans in Exile), an organisation created in 2011 following the wave of violence linked to the “war on drugs”, which affected the entire border area between Mexico and the USA. PBI heard testimonies from Mexican citizens from Guadalupe – a municipality close to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua – who were forced to flee their homes suddenly due to the climate of extreme violence surrounding them. They reported that of the population of 18,000 inhabitants that existed in Guadalupe in 2008, only around 2500 remain; the rest have either been disappeared or are now living in exile. The PBI team was also invited to a screening of the documentary “El Paso”, which recounts the stories of two journalists, one from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and another from Torreón, Coahuila, who had to flee to Texas after receiving death threats. PBI also took advantage of the visit to the USA to meet with the Hope Border Institute.
On the other side of the border, PBI was able to meet twice in August with the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre, an organisation which we have accompanied since 2013, and once with Plan Estratégico Juarez. The team also used the opportunity to hold meetings with state authorities in the city.
“In supportive resistance, we won't stop until we find them”: Day of the Disappeared