12 May 2010 Human rights defenders in Mexico are under increasing threat, a group of independent United Nations experts cautioned today, speaking out against the recent killings of two defenders in the country’s southeast.
Rights defender Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo and international observer Tyri Antero Jaakkola, who were on a monitoring mission in Oaxaca, were killed on 27 April when ambushed by paramilitaries.
Several others, including journalists, were killed in the attack, and four members of the mission were rescued by the police after being stranded in the forest following the incident.
UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who focuses on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, acknowledged the complexity of the situation in Mexico and the challenges the country’s Government faces in fight against drug cartels.
“But there is no justification for failing to take strong steps when human rights defenders, journalists and others are killed,” he emphasized.
“Human rights must not be permitted to be a casualty in the fight against drugs and crime.”
For his part, Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, voiced concern over the impact of the violence on San Juan Copala, where the recent attack took place, as well as on armed groups and the area’s population, mostly women and children belonging to the Triqui indigenous community.
Fellow Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue, who focuses on freedom of expression and opinion, urged Mexican authorities to protect the right to life and to guarantee the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
“The role of journalists is crucial in reinforcing human rights as well as the enjoyment of all rights and freedoms of all persons,” he stressed.
Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, praised Ms. Cariño, who she met earlier this year at a gathering in Dublin, Ireland, of activists from around the world.
Ms. Cariño, the expert said, worked tirelessly to campaign on indigenous, environmental and women’s rights.
The four Special Rapporteurs called on the Mexican Government “to take all necessary steps to protect the right to life and security of human rights defenders in the country against any violence and other arbitrary action which may be a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their activities.”
They called for a prompt and impartial investigation into the 27April attack, noting that the international community will follow Mexico’s response to such events very closely.
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