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Mexico: international and regional experts urge swift action to protect human rights defenders and journalists

GENEVA / WASHINGTON D.C. (14 May 2012) – “The killings and threats repeatedly suffered by rights defenders and journalists in Mexico must stop immediately,” urged a group of four experts from the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, calling on the Government to move ahead with the swift promulgation and effective implementation of the ‘Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists’.

Highlighting the immediacy of the threats facing defenders and journalists, the experts also urged the Government to implement existing protection mechanisms as a matter of urgency, in order to avoid further attacks and loss of life and to complement the new provisions when they come into effect.

The Bill, which has been approved by both chambers of the Federal Congress, seeks to guarantee and safeguard the life, integrity and security of human rights defenders and journalists by creating a mechanism with the authority to implement measures to protect those at risk, as well as at preventing such risks from arising in the future.

“Human rights defenders in Mexico desperately need the State’s effective protection now,” said Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “They continue to suffer killings, attacks, harassment, threats, stigmatization and other serious human rights violations.”

“The State has to implement, as a matter of priority, a global protection policy for human rights defenders. The lack of appropriate and effective systems for implementing specialized protection measures are related to the situation of defenselessness in which many human rights defenders find themselves, which has caused the death of many of them in recent years,” stressed Santiago A. Canton, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the Rapporteurship of Human Rights Defenders*.

“We have to break the cycle of impunity in Mexico, which is becoming an increasingly violent place for journalists,” said Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. “The recent killing of four press workers in Veracruz underscores the dire need for concrete steps to be taken to guarantee the safety of journalists and put an end to impunity.”

Catalina Botero, Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, stressed that “safeguarding journalists and human rights defenders is not only compatible with the fight against crime, it is an essential element of this struggle. The Mexican authorities should take immediate measures to protect those journalists and human rights defenders that are being threatened, as well as to make definitive advances in the struggle against impunity for the crimes that have been committed against them.”

The four experts commended the Federal Congress for approving the Bill, pointing out that it would provide added impetus and sustainability to existing protection frameworks, while also strengthening these frameworks.

The Bill was drafted in consultation with civil society organizations, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico provided technical advice throughout the drafting process.

The human rights experts praised the consultative process which allowed multiple stakeholders to play an important role in the drafting of the Bill, and called for the same participatory approach throughout the implementation process. However, they emphasized the urgency of providing effective protection to those at risk and ensuring that human rights violations against journalists and human rights defenders do not go unpunished.

(*) In keeping with Article 17(2)(a) of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, of Mexican nationality, does not participate in matters concerning said country.
UN Human Rights, country page – Mexico: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/MXIndex.aspx

For more information log on to:
Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
Freedom of opinion and expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:
http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/default.asp

For further information and media requests, please contact Amanda Flores (+41 22 917 9186 / aflores@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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