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.
Alberto Donis, “Brothers on the Way” Migrant Shelter
The Catholic priest Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra and the team at the Hermanos en el Camino migrant shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec (Oaxaca) offer humanitarian aid and legal assistance to migrants, coming mainly from Central America. PBI provides international accompaniment to Father Alejandro Solalinde and the team that manages the “Brothers on the Way” migrant shelter, because the defense of the human rights of migrant persons that Father Solalinde, carries out along with his team, has been widely recognized both in Mexico and abroad, but on the other hand, it has made them a target for attacks, defamation and death threatsat. We are worried about the recent death threats towards Father Solalinde and we make a strong call to the authorities to guarantee him his security. Know more about the work they do through Alberto Donis, and the story of how he arrived as a Guatemalan migrant and how he became a defender of migrant rights, despite the risks of this work.
Continued International Concern for the Murder of Journalists in Mexico
According to reports by Article 19, during the month of March, 3 journalists were murdered in Mexico. On 23 March Miroslava Breach Velducea was killed in Chihuahua city; On 2 March Cecilio Pineda Birto was killed in Guerrero; and on 19 March Ricardo Monlui was killed in Veracruz. These killings were condemned by international organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico (OHCHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and PEN Mexico, as well as national entities such as the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). It is important to note that Mexico has in place a Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.
The Space for Civil Society Organizations for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (OSC Space) - which is accompanied by PBI - made a declaration after the death of Mr. Pineda and stated that this case is an example of the structural flaws of the Mechanism. Specifically, it shows the flaws in the construction of a comprehensive protection policy for human rights defenders and journalists, and they demanded that the Mexican State protect the right to freedom of expression and the right to defend human rights. In Chihuahua, an Observation Mission comprised of human rights organizations and journalists took place at the end of March. The Mission demanded that the federal government take action with regard to the insecurity in the state of Chihuahua, evidenced by the murder of journalist Miroslava Breach and the death of Adrián Rodríguez as well as the deaths of environmental defenders Juan Ontiveros and Isidro Baldenegro. All of these cases took place in the last four months, despite the “Early Warning” system that was adopted in Chihuahua in September 2016 with the . This early warning system aim of preventing aggressions against human rights defenders and journalists in the state. It also included a Contingency Plan which defined a roadmap for implementation.
It is also important to highlight that Michael Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, after his official visit to Mexico in January 2017, mentioned that “Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.” Reporters without Borders ranks Mexico at 149 out of 180 countries in its 2016 classification regarding freedom of expression.
Requests made to the IACHR to push the Special Mechanism to Follow-up on the Ayotzinapa case
In a follow-up hearing on the Ayotzinapa case, parents of the disappeared students, their legal representatives and the Mexican State met during the 161st session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington. Both sides presented their views on the investigation and the search for the disappeared students. The parents shared their concerns about the lack of concrete results in the search for the students, the lack of progress in the investigation of drug trafficking between Mexico and the United States, and the conclusions presented by the PGR about the irregularities in the internal investigation. The Deputy Attorney for Human Rights in the PGR, Sara Irene Herrerías, reported a 94% compliance with the GIEI recommendations and invited a representative from the IACHR to participate in the next meeting with the family members on April 20 in order to facilitate dialogue and come to agreements. Attorney Vidulfo Rosales of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center requested specific commitments from the Mexican State, including that the State bring charges against the Huitzuco municipal police and federal police, who have been identified since September 2015 and who may have participated in the forced disappearance of the students. At the end of the hearing, Undersecretary for Human Rights Roberto Campa pointed out that it is important to consider the hypothesis that the people who are currently detained might be responsible for the deprivation of life and the disappearance of the students, since no other hypothesis has been supported, in this way reaffirming the Historical Truth that was refuted by both the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts and the Argentine Forensic Anthropologists Team. In Europe, María de Jesús Tlatempa, mother of José Eduardo Bartolo, a student from Ayotzinapa, participated in the inauguration of the traveling exhibition called "Footprints of Memory", which will go to several countries to share the life stories of the disappeared in Mexico.
PBI Expresses Concern for the Situation for Human Rights Defenders in the Sierra Tarahumara at the UN Human Rights Council
During the 34th period of sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst presented his annual report in which he once again highlights the serious situation faced by environmental defenders and the factors that impact their level of risk. This includes the application of advanced repressive techniques and the predominance of impunity. During the interactive dialog with Special Rapporteur, PBI expressed concern for the situation of at-risk human rights defenders in Latin America and specifically for the killings that took place in the Sierra Tarahumara in Mexico in which environmental defenders and members of the Raramuri community, Isidro Baldenegro y Juan Ontiveros were killed. Their deaths took place only two weeks apart. Isela González, director of Sierra Madre Alliance, attended the event in Geneva as part of a speaking tour organized by PBI. During meetings she had with special procedures in the UN she highlighted PBI´s accompaniment of the indigenous Raramuri communities in Chihuahua, communities that fight for their right to land and territory despite the exploitation of the forest resources in the region. During the parallel event entitled “Environmental Defenders: responding to a global crisis” organized by Spain, the OHCHR, PBI and other organizations and human rights networks, the defender highlighted the risks faced by human rights defenders in Chihuahua and the structural barriers that block this work, such as the lack of recognition of their ancestral territory and the lack of adequate resources to manage legal defense and litigation. Similarly, she called attention to the Protection Mechanism in Mexico, and specifically the Contingency Plan initiative as an opportunity to attend to the serious situation for human rights defenders in Chihuahua. Chihuahua is the state with the greatest number of deaths of human rights defenders in Mexico.
Continued Demands for Justice for the Death of Defender Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez
On March 15, several Mexican organizations, including Services for an Alternative Education (EDUCA) – an organization thy receives PBI accompaniment - commemorated the five year anniversary of the death of Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, leader of the Coordinator for United People of the Ocotlan Valley (COPUVO). Bernardo was part of the legitimate opposition to the mine that was going to be installed in San José del Progreso by the Cuzcatlán S.A de C.V. mining company. The death of the defender in Ocotlan valley, Oaxaca, remains in impunity and civil society continues to demand justice and truth from authorities. The organizations also recognized that his brother Álvaro Andrés Vásquez Sánchez and Rosalinda Dionisio Vásquez, another member of the organization, were also injured in the attack.
On September 14, 2016, the State Human Rights Ombudsman´s office (DDHPO), in its Early Warning “For the security of Human Rights Defenders in Oaxaca”, identified land and territory defenders as one of the most vulnerable groups who are most exposed to attacks.
Security Workshop in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
On 25 and 26 March, 2017 PBI was present in a workshop on Businesses, Human Rights and Security, organized by FUNDAR, Center of Analysis and Research and with the participation of the Center for Information on Businesses and Human Rights, which was offered to members of the “Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Territory-Support” (APOYO). The articulation is a group of social and community organizations in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that began to work together to defend the rights of land and territory on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec one year ago.
In this context, PBI facilitated a section of the workshop called “security and protection for human rights defenders”, which focused on sharing experiences about protection and security based on its Security and Protection Training Program.
As part of this trip to the Isthmus, the PBI team met with authorities from the three levels of government in Ixtepec, Tehuantepec and Juchitán, as well as with civil society organizations, including a visit to the Brothers on the Way shelter in Ixtepec and the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People (APPJ) in Juchitán. In addition, PBI held a meeting with the Ixtepec Committee "Life and Territory" in Tehuantepec.
PBI Volunteer Facilitates Security Workshop with members of OPOYO in Isthmus of Tehuantepec @PBI Mexico
PBI Carries out an Accompaniment tour in the Carbon Region of Coahuila
Between 19-24 March, PBI volunteers carried out a tour in the coal mining region of Coahuila where they conducted a series of activities with the members of the Pasta de Conchos Family Organization (OFPDC) – who are accompanied by PBI- and held meetings with different authorities at the municipal and state level. During this tour, PBI was present in the municipalities of San Juan de Sabinas, Múzquiz and Sabinas, including the mining villages of Nueva Rosita and Cloete.
Activities included physical accompaniment to OFPDC members, as well as a follow up on a security and protection workshop that took place in December 2016, at their office in Cloete. PBI also expressed concern for the risk faced by the members of the OFPDC with several municipal and state authorities.
The Pasta de Conchos Family Organization was created in 2006 with the mission of demanding the rescue of the 65 miners who were trapped after the explosion of Mine 8, in the Pasta de Conchos unit. Since 2009 the organization has also worked to document and report on the effects of carbon mining on the miners and the communities in the region – which affects their rights as workers, the right to housing and the right to a healthy environment. Due to the violation of these rights, the organization has filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission. It is important to note that Cristina Auerbach and Esmeralda Saldaña, human rights defenders and members of the organization, visited Europe in order to provide more visibility to the situation as part of a speaking tour organized by PBI between November and December 2016.
Report “Aggressions Against Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico”
In March, the report “Aggressions against Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, National Diagnosis" was published. This report was coordinated by the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, together with the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders and in collaboration with the Consortium for Parliamentary Dialog and Equality in Oaxaca (an organization accompanied by PBI), Jass Mesoamerica (Just Associates) and the Roundtable of Women of Ciudad Juarez.
One of the conclusions in the report is that from 2012-2014, Mexico placed second in the Mesoamerican region in aggressions against women defenders. In addition, it states that violence against women defenders and journalists is increasing. In only three years, attacks increased by 261%, from 118 in 2012, to 308 in 2014. In January 2017 when UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst held an official visit to Mexico, there were at least 15 attacks against defenders, which is twice as many cases as January 2016. It is also important to highlight that the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Michel Forst said that after meeting with women defenders and listening to their testimonies, he has decided to devote an entire chapter in his assessment report to their specific situation, which he referred to as one “of grave concern.”