International NGOs call on Mexico to end stigmatisation of human rights defenders and mechanisms

22.03.2016

In a move that has been reported by several Mexican media outlets, Mexican and international human rights organisations have come together to demand a response from the Mexican Government to the campaign of stigmatisation and defamation against human rights defenders in the country.

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In a move that has been reported by several Mexican media outlets, Mexican and international human rights organisations have come together to demand a response from the Mexican Government to the campaign of stigmatisation and defamation against human rights defenders in the country.

The Director of the Mexican Commission for the Defence and Protection of Human Rights (CMPDPDH), Mr. José Antonio Guevara has been the focus of several public attacks in print media and the radio questioning the legitimacy of this work, potentially putting him and his colleagues at risk.

 ‘ISHR has joined ACAT, APT, FIDH, OMCT, Robert F. Kennedy for Human Rights, and WOLA to make clear our wholehearted support for Mr. José Antonio Guevara and his work,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘We call on President Enrique Peña Nieto to ensure his Government recognises the legitimacy and value of the work of CMDPDH and human rights organisations in general, and denounces attempts to discredit their work.’

Most recently, on the radio programme ‘Ciro Gómez Leyva por la mañana’ transmitted on 4 March, Mr. José Antonio Guevara was accused of operating ‘a network of corruption making money out of torture’.  The Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) was also accused of operating illegitimately and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, was accused of supporting these organisations.  This incident follows on from publication of newpaper articles – including in the national newspaper, ‘El Universal’ – where the current and prior Directors of CMDPDH have been called ‘mercenaries of human rights’ or ‘defenders of delinquents’. 

In 2012 CMDPDH was one of the organisations taking the case of four civilians tortured whilst detainnes – Ramiro Ramírez, Rodrigo Ramírez, Orlando Santaolaya and Ramiro López –to the UN Committee against Torture.  In August 2015 the Committee concluded that all four should be released immediately and receive reparations for the torture they had suffered at the hands of the State. 

The Mexican Government has consistently rejected the reports and recommendations from UN human rights bodies and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) where the serious nature of the human rights situation in the country was highlighted.  In regard to the most recent IACHR report, on ‘The Human Rights Situation in Mexico’ published on 23 March, the State rejected both the methodology employed in drawing up the report, and its findings. 

Mexico’s lack of cooperation with the UN was made evident during the interactive dialogue with members of the Human Rights Council at the current session, when the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders noted that his request to visit Mexico had still not been met and that he would continue to push for access to the country. 

In 2014 ISHR was a member of a Civil Society Mission to Mexico, co-organised by CMPDPDH, that looked at the implementation of the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.  The conclusions of the Mission in regard to the protection of defenders were grave.  The mission outlined a series of recommendations, including a call calling on State officials at all levels to make regular statements in acknowledgement of the work of human rights defenders. 

‘Stigmatisation of human rights defenders is a tactic employed to create an environment of questioning of their legitimate and vital work, and frequently is a precursor to further threats and attacks,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘It is the responsibility of the State to make evident that such stigmatization of defenders is unacceptable and to make clear public statements in support of those defenders targeted, and in support of the legitimate and vital work of defenders more generally. With the Human Rights Council in session, Mexico has the perfect platform to make such support evident.’

Category:

Region
  • Latin America and Caribbean
Topic
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • Committee against Torture (CAT)
  • UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs
  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Country
  • Mexico