21 January 2010
Mexico must protect activists

Obtilia Eugenio Manuel of the Me'Phaa People's OrganizationMexico is a dangerous place for human rights activists. They face threats, harassment and intimidation, wrongful prosecution and even death in retaliation for their human rights work.

Activists highlight human rights violations committed by the military, police and non-state actors, they also campaign for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, migrants, women and those whose environmental rights are threatened. This work to improve the rights of others often brings them into conflict with the police, illegal loggers, landowners - anyone who sees them as a threat to their vested interests.

Over the last three years Amnesty International has documented at least six cases of killings of human rights defenders. Activists also suffered threats, attacks and wrongful prosecution on spurious charges. Virtually none of these abuses have been investigated effectively by either federal or state authorities. In some instances, investigations have been wholly negligent.

As the Mexican authorities are often slow and ineffective in handling request for protection, defenders in danger in Mexico have to rely almost entirely on requests issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the Mexican authorities for their protection.

The intervention of the Inter-American system should be a last resort, not a first recourse. Amnesty International has called on the Mexican government to develop an effective and comprehensive domestic protection programme for human rights defenders, which would include the effective investigation of abuses against defenders.

Picture caption: Obtilia Eugenio Manuel of the Me'Phaa People's Organization at a protest in front of Auytla prison, Guerrero State, to demand the release of five prisoners of conscience. Copyright: Javier Verdin/La Jornada

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