Dear PBI Mexico support network members,
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.
In Memoriam: Interview with Alberto Donis, "Brothers on the Way" Shelter
“I am Alberto Donis, I am from Guatemala, I am a migrant and I am doing this [work] because I enjoy it, I am passionate about it, and because I am a migrant and I have suffered from violence.”
Alberto Donis, narrates the story of how he arrived in Mexico as a migrant and how he became a human rights defender of migrants, despite the risks involved in this work.
From all of us at the PBI Mexico project, we send our deepest condolences to his family, the team at the Shelter, the migrant community and to everyone who knew him and shared his tireless fight for migrant rights. Thank you Beto for your work.
Businesses and Human Rights: UN Working Group Shares Results of its Visit to Mexico
The UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business enterprises presented the report on their 2016 Mission to Mexico to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The report by the Working Group concluded that human rights defenders should be better protected so that they can carry out their work, and also stated that the Mexican context is characterized by intimidation and harassment against community leaders who protest development projects and other business operations. The group recommended that the Mexican State strengthen the National Mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists by carrying out investigations and placing sanctions on those who are responsible for the aggressions; this is similar to the proposals made by the “OSC Space” (which monitors the implementation of the National Mechanism).
PBI expressed concern to the President of the HRC due to the increased violence and criminalization of people who defend the right to land, territory and the environment, and especially those who oppose extractive industries and the exploitation of energy resources. PBI also provided visibility to the need to establish protection mechanisms that take into account gender and ethnicity, as well as improved coordination among the different entities responsible for the implementation of the measures, such as state and municipal authorities.
PBI urged state and federal authorities to make a public declaration of zero tolerance for attacks on human rights defenders and to initiate a campaign to provide recognition to defenders, as established in recommendation 25 by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). Mexican civil society asked the Mexican state to meet with civil society organizations to design a participative, transparent and public strategy to follow up with general recommendations as well as recommendations on specific cases in the report of the Working Group on Businesses and Human Rights.
Press conference organizated by Mexican civil society about the report of the WG-ONU Businesses and HRs @PBI Mwxico@PBI
Concerns regarding Surveillance of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists
According to an investigation by Citizen Lab, human rights defenders, high profile journalists and anti-corruption activists in Mexico may have been affected by “Pegasus”, a software which infiltrates mobile devices in order to monitor the movements of someone through their cell phone. According to the company that creates the software, the tool is exclusively sold to governments, with the condition that it is only used to fight terrorism, criminal groups and drug cartels. The government denies that some of its entities might carry out surveillance or another intervention without previous legal authorization. In a press conference, journalists and HRDs declared that they will present a complaint to the National Attorney General's Office (PGR) against anyone who is responsible for alleged spying.
R3D, the Network in Defense of Digital Rights, together with Article 19 and SocialTIC, documented 76 attempts by Pegasus to infect the devices of journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico between January 2015 and July 2016, which may have taken place during “critical time periods in their work.” For example, the attempts to hack the Centro Prodh took place during key moments such as the 10th anniversary of the repression in Atenco, the discussion around the General Law against Torture and the presentation of the final report about the Ayotzinapa case by the GIEI. These organizations demand that an independent panel of experts be granted the ability to oversee the investigation by the PGR, and that contracts and documents about Pegasus be transparent. The OSC+space demanded that the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists take immediate actions to generate elements for diagnosis and analysis. The Red TdT expressed concern that other human rights defenders may have also been victims of spying, including members of the Cerezo Committee Mexico (an organization that receives PBI accompaniment).
Jan Jarab, representative of the UNHCHR in Mexico stated that it was “particularly serious” that journalists, activists and defenders are the focus of these actions due to the essential role that they play in a democratic state. Similarly, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) urged Mexican authorities to carry out an independent and exhaustive investigation with regard to these events and to protect the work of human rights defenders and journalists.
One Year since the Violent Events in Nochixtlan
19 June marked the one year anniversary of the “Oaxaca Operation,” carried out by the State and Federal Police in Nochixtlan and four other municipalities. According to different organizations, a series of violent events occurred that led to eight deaths and hundreds of injuries, in addition to psychological damage to dozens of civilians, including children. A joint statement by the UN OHCHR, the CNDH and the Human Rights Ombudsman for the People of Oaxaca (DDHPO) condemned the acts and called on federal and state authorities to reinitiate dialogue with the victims, to carry out a thorough investigation and provide guarantees of non-repetition.
In April of this year the head of the DDHPO, Arturo Peimbert Calvo, stated that the lack of progress in the investigation allows impunity to prevail and aggressions toward the victims, their families and their defenders to continue to take place. The insecurity faced by victims of this violent act was also the topic of a meeting that took place at the DDHPO's headquarters in Oaxaca on 25 May between Jan Jarab, representative of the OHCHR, and the Committee of Victims for Truth and Justice.
On 26 June, during the presentation of the booklet titled “Recovering Dignity with regard to Torture” which took place on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Codigo-DH (an organization that receives PBI accompaniment) stated that it is important that the case does not remain in impunity and made a statement with regard to the one year anniversary. Several victims also provided testimony. Codigo-DH provides legal assistance and psycho-social support to the people detained in the cemetery who were allegedly tortured on the day of the Oaxaca Operative.
Mural to commemorate the events at Nochixtlan @PBI Mexico
Tlachinollan Human Rights Center meets with German Chancellor
On 10 June Abel Barrera from the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the meeting Mr. Barrera expressed concern about the impunity in the case of the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa. He also discussed the lack of political will by federal authorities to follow the lines of investigation proposed by the Inter-Disciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, which receives PBI accompaniment, legally represents the families of 43 students from the “Raul Isidro Burgos” School in Ayotzinapa, who were disappeared in September 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero. Tlachinollan has worked in the state of Guerrero since 1993 and accompanies the defense of the rights of rural and indigenous communities of the Me’phaa, Naua, Nn’ anncue, Na savi and mestizo people who live in the Mountain region of Guerrero. Abel Barrera Hernandez, leader and founder of the Center, was recently recognized with the Franco Alemán Gilberto Bosques human rights award.
Statewide Meeting of Women Activists and Human Rights Defenders takes place in Oaxaca
On 15 and 16 June the 4th annual Statewide Encounter of Women Activists and Human Rights Defenders took place in Oaxaca. The event was organized by Consorcio Oaxaca, an organization that receives PBI accompaniment and attended by 70 human rights defenders from different regions of the state of Oaxaca and Natalia Barreto – an Advisor for Human Rights Cooperation and Culture of the European Union Delegation in Mexico. Together they held a dialogue about the defense of human rights in the current context. The goal of the meeting was to strengthen ties in the different struggles of women as well as to provide “integral feminist protection” tools so that defenders can carry out their work. The encounter also encouraged the creation and construction of networks among women.
Days prior to the encounter, in a meeting at the Serena House, a space for self-care, healing and reflection for women defenders, Ana Guezmes, representative of UN Women in Mexico, stated that governments in the region have the responsibility to recognize the work of human rights defenders. Ambassadors from Norway, Austria, Ireland, Sweden and Thailand also visited the space and stated that the Mexican State should comply with their obligations to guarantee the security of human rights defenders.
Contingency Plan for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists is Approved in Chihuahua
On 9 June, the Governor of the State of Chihuahua, Javier Corral, and the Under Secretary of Human Rights from the Secretary of the Interior, Roberto Campa Cifrian, signed the Contingency Plan which was created from the early warning system for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in Chihuahua. This early warning plan had been pushed for by civil society. As a part of PBI's international observation work, PBI was present during the public event in which the plan was signed by representatives of the Federal and State governments as well as with civil society. The initiative was created by Mexican civil society due to the violent context in Chihuahua, which puts it among the three most dangerous states in the country with regard to the defense of human rights.
The plan has 5 main themes: journalists and freedom of expression; vulnerable populations; the environment; the Tarahumara Sierra; and cross-cutting strategies like justice, transparency of information and the legal context. Governor Javier Corral stated that with the approval of the Plan, the “foundation to support and guarantee the work of human rights defenders” was also approved. At the same time, the director of the Sierra Madre Alliance (ASMAC), Isela Gonzalez, in representation of local civil society, emphasized the need to effectively implement the measures in the plan. It is important to remember that Chihuahua is the second state in Mexico to create an early warning system and it is the first state entity to create a contingency plan approved by the three levels of government. PBI accompanies the Civil Society organizations in the process of the implementation of this early warning system.
26 June was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which was created to commemorate the implementation of the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. It is important to remember that in Mexico, at the federal level, the General Law to Prevent, Investigate and Sanction Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading treatment, was approved in the recent legislative period and came into effect on 26 June. This was recognized as an important accomplishment by national and international organizations. Civil society organizations highlighted the need to put the law into action.
To commemorate this day, the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center, an organization that works to promote and defend human rights and provides legal and psychosocial support to relatives of the disappeared, survivors of torture and their families held a series of events to commemorate this day. They held a press conference to share their concerns about the use of torture at the state level and condemned the fact that state authorities still use this practice in their investigations. These actions are part of the campaign called “No More Torture in Ciudad Juarez” through which several organizations demanded justice, truth and non-repetition, in addition to the clarification of more than 190 cases of torture by security forces that have been documented since 2011.
PBI accompanies the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center due to the risk they face for their legitimate work in defense of human rights. Due to this risk, the center also benefits from precautionary measures granted by the Governmental Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. As part of PBI's accompaniment of the Center, PBI volunteers, together with the Project’s European Representative, traveled to Ciudad Juarez in June and met with members of Paso del Norte as well as with authorities and the Roundtable of Women (RMM).
Latin American Meeting on Strategies of Protection for the Defence of the Territory
On May 30, 31 and June 1, in Mexico City, the Latin American Meeting “Strategies of Protection for the defence of territory" was held. With the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, this event was organised by a group of international, regional and local organisations that support processes for the protection of human rights defenders, especially those who work in the defence of land and territory.
The meeting was a space for exchange and learning about experiences and protection strategies that exist in the region in order to strengthen ongoing processes, and foster a space of solidarity and articulation between different movements, organizations and territories. Representatives of organizations and communities from 15 Latin American countries participated in the event and signed a communique regarding the obstacles and risks they face while carrying out their work in defense of land, territory and environmental rights.
In the context of the consultation initiated by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders working in contexts where companies operate, they also prepared a document about the impact that the defense of human rights has on the people and communities that defend the rights to the territory and the environment.