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UN expert encourages Mexico to increase protection of human rights defenders

19 October 2020


GENEVA (19 October 2020) – A UN human rights expert today welcomed Mexico’s decision to send to the Senate for ratification the ground-breaking regional environmental treaty known as the Escazú Agreement.

“The decision to move forward with ratification of the Escazú Agreement shows Mexico´s responsibility for the environment, and the recognition of those who protect it,” said Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

In addition to establishing the right to a healthy environment, the landmark Escazú Agreement, signed by 24 countries, establishes clear guarantees for the protection of environmental defenders. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent it to the Mexican Senate in August for ratification in coming months.

“Ratification would be an important signal of Mexico´s commitment to human rights defenders who, along with journalists, face high levels of violence in the country,” Lawlor said.

“It should inspire other branches of government to ensure that any legal, fiscal and policy reforms now under consideration also strengthen the protection of human rights defenders” she said, referring to measures now before the Senate. “With these legal developments, Mexico has an important opportunity to increase protection of human rights defenders.”

The National Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which Congress set up in 2012, must be adequately funded and resourced so that it can function properly, Lawlor said. “The lives of lives of human rights defenders – including environmental defenders – may depend on this.”

“The voice of human rights defenders should be heard in any policy decision that concerns or affects their protection and their ability to continue their legitimate human rights work,” she said. “We encourage the Government to continue to undertake additional steps towards the creation of a safe and enabling environment in Mexico.”

Her call was endorsed by Mr. David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment


Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was the Director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, became a Board member in 1975 and was elected Chair from 1983 to 1987.

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.

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