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UN experts urge Mexico to ensure protection of rights defenders, as prominent advocate faces smear campaign

30 May 2016

GENEVA (30 May 2016) – A high-level UN human rights advisory body today expressed alarm over a series of verbal attacks and threats against one of its members, prominent Mexican human rights defender and advocate Mariclaire Acosta.

Ms Acosta has been repeatedly targeted in the Mexican media with defamatory statements that implicitly encourage violence against her.

Ms Acosta is a longstanding human rights advocate in Mexico and is currently member of a UN human rights advisory body appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to provide advice on strengthening assistance to States for the effective promotion and protection of human rights on the ground. She was appointed in 2013 as one of five eminent global human rights experts on the body: the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights and of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance for the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review. The pro bono service of these global experts in this UN body has been highly acknowledged by the international community.  

“Ms Acosta is a prominent defender with a global reputation for integrity, professionalism and commitment. If she can be subjected to such outrageous attacks and threats, then less prominent human rights defenders must live in constant fear for their lives,” Board Chairperson Lin Lim said on behalf of the five board members. “The Government of Mexico must ensure protection and support for Ms Acosta and for all human rights defenders, and provide them with the space and conditions to work in safety, in line with the State’s international obligations.”

“The Government must ensure in particular that human rights defenders who face threats of physical violence against them, attacks on their integrity and other attempts at intimidating them have adequate protection. This includes students, farmers, indigenous peoples and workers’ rights advocates, among others. The Board of Trustees anticipates that the Government of Mexico will exercise its considerable sovereign will to safeguard the reputation of this great country and the integrity of its vibrant civil society.”

Ms Lin Lim said the attacks against Ms Acosta have occurred against the backdrop of a wider campaign against human rights defenders in Mexico since the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero State in September 2014.

The Board took note of the public statements by the Government of Mexico on its efforts to ameliorate the situation. It stressed that the Government must take seriously the responsibility to resolve the human rights and rule of law challenges in the country, and that it must urgently take steps to improve the situation.

Ms Acosta is a longstanding human rights defender and advocate in Mexico. She is currently the Head of Freedom House in Mexico. She was Special Ambassador for Human Rights and Democracy (2000) and Undersecretary for Human Rights and Democracy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) of Mexico (2001-2003). For 10 years she chaired the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights and was Founder and Director of the Mexican Academy of Human Rights.

For more information or interview requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected])

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