Mexico urged to protect activists after campaigner shot dead

Amnesty International has urged the Mexican authorities to protect human rights activists after a woman campaigner against violence and human rights abuses by military officials was shot dead near Ciudad Juarez.

Josefina Reyes was seized by a group of unidentified armed men outside a shop in the town of Guadalupe on Sunday. A witness reported that she was shot in the head after fighting back when the men attempted to abduct her.

According to a witness, the men apparently told her before the killing: “You think you are tough because you are with the organizations”.

Josefina Reyes had been active at events and protests against violence in the area, including abuses by the military deployed to fight organized crime. In August 2009, she participated in a “Forum on Militarization and Repression” in Ciudad Juárez, which examined reports of increasing human rights violations committed by members of the military.

Amnesty International believes that other human rights defenders who belong to Ciudad Juárez’s Coordination of Civil Society Organizations are also at risk of intimidation and attacks.

In particular, Cipriana Jurado, another female activist who has worked closely with Amnesty International on cases of abuses by the military, may be at risk.

“The authorities must ensure that Cipriana Jurado, and other human rights defenders with the Coordination of Civil Society Organization in Ciudad Juárez, receive immediate and effective protection,” said Kerrie Howard, deputy director of the Americas Programme at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has called for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the killing of Josefina Reyes, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice.

Since 2007, violence linked to organized crime has spiralled in Mexico: the media have reported more than 14,000 drug cartel related killings. Vast numbers of these murders have occurred in Ciudad Juárez, on the border with the United States.

President Calderón’s administration has deployed thousands of federal police and over 50,000 military personnel to combat organized crime and drug cartels in the worst affected areas, particularly Ciudad Juárez.