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Human rights defenders continue to pay with their lives in Mexico, warn UN experts

GENEVA (12 May 2010) – A group of UN independent experts* warned about the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Mexico, strongly condemning the recent killing of human rights defender Ms. Beatriz Alberta (Bety) Cariño Trujillo and the international observer Mr. Tyri Antero Jaakkola in Oaxaca, south east Mexico.

“Defenders continue to face significant threats to their lives in Mexico as a result of their work,” said Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in the country, including women and human rights defenders working on issues related to indigenous communities.”

On 27 April 2010, Bety Cariño and Tyri Antero Jaakkola were part of a mission to monitor human rights in Oaxaca when they were ambushed by paramilitaries and killed. Several other human rights defenders and journalists suffered injuries. Four other members of the mission, including two journalists of the magazine Contralínea, spent two days in a forest following the attack, before being rescued by the police on 30 April.

“The situation in Mexico is extremely complex and no-one could doubt the gravity of the challenges confronting the Government in its fight against the drug cartels” added Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “But there is no justification for failing to take strong steps when human rights defenders, journalists and others are killed. Human rights must not be permitted to be a casualty in the fight against drugs and crime.”

"The increase of armed clashes and violence in the community of San Juan Copala over the past few months is affecting not only the armed groups involved but also the population of the district, most of them women and children belonging to the Triqui indigenous community,” stated with concern the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya.

On his part, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion, Frank La Rue, urged the Mexican authorities to protect the right to life and guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as stated in articles 6 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “The role of journalists is crucial in reinforcing human rights as well as the enjoyment of all rights and freedoms of all persons.”

The group of UN experts called on the Mexican Government “to take all necessary steps to protect the right to life and security of human rights defenders in the country against any violence and any other arbitrary action which may be a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their activities.”

“We urge the authorities to initiate a prompt and impartial inquiry into the mentioned events so that perpetrators are identified, brought to justice and appropriate penalties are imposed”, they said. “The international community will closely follow the response of the Mexican Government regarding such events.”

Ms. Sekaggya had met with Bety Cariño in February 2010, at the Fifth Dublin Platform, a meeting of over 100 human rights defenders from around the world. The UN independent expert praised the defender for her tireless work campaigning on indigenous, environmental and women's rights. Bety Cariño was Director of the Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos CACTUS (Centre for Community Support Working Together).

(*): Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial or arbitrary executions; James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; and Frank la Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm