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Mexico / Rights defenders: “The best way to protect them is fighting impunity” – UN expert

Mexico / Impunity

25 January 2017


GENEVA / MEXICO CITY (25 January 2017) – “Impunity has become both the cause and the effect of the overall insecurity of human rights defenders in Mexico,” has warned United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst at the end of his first official visit to country to assess the level of safety and empowerment of rights defenders.

“Impunity feeds criminalization of defenders, which in turn fuels fear among broader civil society, undermining the general aspirations for human rights and the rule of law,” said the independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the promotion and protection of defenders in the world.

“For human rights defenders, the best protection they could have is when justice is served and perpetrators are held accountable,” Mr. Forst underscored.

After crisscrossing the country from Mexico City to the states of Chihuahua, Guerrero, Oaxaca and State of Mexico, and meeting with more than 800 human rights defenders from 24 states -60 percent of who were women defenders- the UN expert noted the “elevated levels of insecurity and violence facing them in the country” in the complex context of organized crime, corruption in the country, and State repression.

“The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalization of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both State and non-State actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,” he stressed.

“It’s worrying that arbitrary arrests and detentions have also been used as a tool to silence dissident voices and curb social movements,” the expert added. “In many cases, defenders are criminalized for reporting violations by public authorities and face indirect retaliation through attacks or criminal proceedings directed towards their families or people who are close to them.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern that nearly 98 percent of crimes committed in Mexico remain unresolved: “The negligent rate of successful investigations and prosecution of crimes committed against human rights defenders has engendered the sense of widespread impunity.”

“The failure to investigate and sanction aggressors has signaled a dangerous message that there are no consequences for committing such crimes. This creates an environment conducive to repetition of violations,” he warned.

On the final day of his visit, the expert delivered a preliminary report with a series of recommendations to the Mexican authorities and other actors to improve the protection of human rights defenders and enable their important work.

“Only by joining efforts will Mexico be able to overcome the serious situation in which defenders are carrying out their work, which is core to a democratic society,” the UN Special Rapporteur stated.

Mr. Forst concluded by reassuring his availability to assist all interested actors in addressing impunity and ensuring protection of defenders in Mexico.

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Michel Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. He is a former UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti.

The Special Rapporteurs 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.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Mexico 

OHCHR Mexico

For more information and media requests please contact:
In Mexico City: Gabriela Gorjón (+52 55 5061 6374 / +52 55 5438 1729 / [email protected]).
In Geneva: Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 79 201 0119 / +41 22 917 9183 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

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