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Mexico: UN rights experts strongly condemn killing of human rights defender and call for effective measures to tackle impunity

GENEVA (19 May) – A group of UN experts* strongly condemns the brutal murder of Miriam Rodríguez Martínez, a mother who became an activist after her daughter disappeared and was subsequently found to have been murdered.

The experts call on the Government of Mexico to carry out a fair and impartial investigation into this case and to address the prevailing impunity that permits such attacks against human rights defenders.

Ms Rodríguez Martínez was shot and killed in her home in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, on 10 May 2017, which was Mother’s Day in Mexico.

After her 20-year-old daughter Karen was disappeared in 2014, Ms. Rodríguez carried out her own investigations that led her to discover her daughter’s remains.

“This is another shocking example of violence against those speaking out for truth and justice in Mexico. It is even more appalling as Ms. Rodriguez had reportedly requested protection from the authorities. Those responsible for this heinous crime should be urgently found and brought to justice,” the experts said, recalling their repeated expressions of concern about the increasing risks faced by relatives of disappeared persons, human rights defenders as well as lawyers and journalists in Mexico.

The Vice-Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Ms. Suela Janina, noted that: “Out of the 375 Urgent Action requests registered by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances since 2012, 288 relate to disappearances in Mexico. We have requested measures of protection in 134 of these cases. The Committee has expressed on several occasions its deep concern about the situation in Mexico, where disappearances seem to be widespread. Since 2013, we repeatedly asked the Government of Mexico to permit us to visit the country but no positive answer was received”.

The Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Ms. Houria Es-Slami, highlighted that: “States have the responsibility to protect those involved in the investigation of enforced disappearances, notably relatives, from acts of violence, intimidation and reprisals. We welcome the announcement made yesterday by President Pena Nieto that measures will be taken to strengthen the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists as well as the call for their prompt implementation to ensure that defenders, including relatives of disappeared persons, are able to carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Protection measures should be provided to the family of Ms. Rodríguez as well as to members of her association and other groups of relatives in search of their disappeared family members throughout the country”.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst, concluded:  “Human rights defenders in Mexico continue to be targeted precisely because of the performance of their legitimate activities. Impunity remains the main challenge for the protection of human rights defenders in Mexico, and as such should be a priority for all branches of the Government.

Recommendations made by international human rights bodies on impunity, including the recommendation issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights*, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the creation of an Advisory Council to address impunity in the country, should be heeded”.

The experts also express their sincerest condolences to the family of Ms. Miriam Rodríguez. They reiterate their solidarity and support to all relatives and associations of families of disappeared persons who, through their daily work, fight to promote the rights of all persons to be protected from enforced disappearance and are too often the target of intimidation and violence.
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*The Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences

* You can find the full Statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on his visit to Mexico, October 7th, 2015 here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16578&LangID=E

ENDS

For media requests please contact: Nicoleta Panta, +41(0) 22 9179310 /npanta@ohchr.org

Background

The story of Miriam Rodríguez Martínez

Ms Rodríguez Martínez was shot and killed in her home in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, on 10 May 2017, Mother’s Day in Mexico. After her 20-year-old daughter Karen was disappeared in 2014, Ms. Rodríguez carried out her own investigations that led her to discover her daughter’s remains. Thanks to her extraordinary courage and determination, she ensured that the perpetrators were brought to justice. She had reportedly requested protection measures from the state of Tamaulipas, following news that several people being tried for the crimes committed against her daughter had escaped from prison. 

Ms. Rodríguez, like many other women and family members whose lives have been dramatically affected by disappearances, channelled her personal tragedy into a campaign seeking truth and justice for the thousands of disappeared persons in Mexico. She founded an association in San Fernando for relatives of disappeared persons and became a recognized voice amongst relatives of disappeared persons demanding that the State take action.

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Committee on Enforced Disappearances

CED members are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. More information: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/CEDIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

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