PBI Mexico: The Protection Mechanism one year on; activists demand institutional backing from Peña’s Government 26 de junio de 2013

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PBI believes that the Protection Mechanism represents a crucial opportunity to provide effective protection for the HRDs who can strengthen Mexico’s democratic transition. PBI congratulates the public commitments which Lía Limón and Juan Carlos Gutiérrez have made to the strengthening of the Protection Mechanism and appreciates that important steps have been taken towards its implementation. However, it is clear that more must be done. PBI urges Miguel Osorio Chong to meet with the Mechanism’s Consultative Council and to commit publicly to the full and swift implementation of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. PBI hopes that the Mexican Interior Ministry will study the diagnosis of the Mechanism produced by civil society and will support the Mechanism’s operative staff in implementing the document’s recommendations.

25.06.2013

PBI Mexico: The Protection Mechanism one year on; activists demand institutional backing from Peña’s Government

- June 25, 2013. One year on from the publication of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Journalists, the Protection Mechanism which it ought to create is still short on staff, resources and political backing, according to Mexican civil society.

In a letter sent today to Interior Ministry chief Miguel Osorio Chong, the Civil Society Organisations Group (Espacio OSC) which has pushed for a governmental mechanism since 2010, denounced a failing institution and asked that Chong publicly recognise the risks facing activists and journalists and ensure that the Mechanism receive institutional support from the highest levels of Government to match the efforts of its operative staff. What is more, the Espacio OSC has also delivered a diagnosis of the Mechanism, based upon their own experiences of working with it, to Under-Secretary Lía Limón in the hope that the Government will respond to their concerns and make the organ functional.

In 2011 there were at least 209 human rights violationscommitted against HRDs, and the risks involved in denouncing abuses have shown no signs of slowing since the change of administration in December of last year: In thefirst 100 days of the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, 37 aggressions against HRDs and 56 against journalists were registered, including one assassination. Since thenanother journalist has lost his life, and more remain disappeared.

Under-Secretary for Judicial Affairs and Human Rights Lía Limón committed to strengthen the Mechanism last December, at the launch of PBI’s video on HRDs in Mexico ’The Duty to Protect’, and the Mechanism’s Executive Coordinator Juan Carlos Gutiérrez has maintained a dialogue with civil society regarding the implementation of the body he heads. However, those who have accompanied cases into the Mechanism complain that prolonged processes and poor risk analyses have meant that victims are left exposed to further risks. The Mechanism features in both the Pact for Mexico and the National Development Plan, however neither Peña Nieto nor Osorio Chong of publicly spoken of its importance.

Those who pushed for the passing of the law insist that with greater political backing from above, progress can be made swiftly. Daniel Joloy of the Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos and representative of the Espacio OSC told PBI that “the law has the potential to provide greater security to our colleagues. But it is impossible for it to function if only six of the twenty operative staff required have been contracted by Segob, and if the fund for protective measures has not yet been released. It is clear that efforts are being made within the Mechanism to make it work, but there has to be institutional political support and this needs to be made a priority by the Interior Minister.”

The drafting of last year’s law, which passed with unanimity in both chambers of the Mexican Congress, reflected international best practise, with Espacio OSC members and Senators from all three majority parties joining forces to ensure a clear legal base for the protection of the two at-risk populations, whose ensured safety and participation was deemed vital for Mexico’s democratic development.

One of the key features of the law is civil society’s guaranteed participation in the Mechanism’s governing board (Junta de Gobierno) and the conformation of a Consultative Council made up of journalists, human rights defenders and academics. The Consultative Council recently requested a meeting with Osorio Chong, a response to which could provide the perfect opportunity for the Peña Nieto administration to respond to civil society’s concerns and commit to the Mechanism’s strengthening.

According to Interior Ministry statistics, the Mechanism has received 64 requests for help, 19 of which have entered the ’extraordinary process’ which requires the implementation of urgent protective measures within twelve hours. However, the majority of the operative posts within the Mechanism have not been filled with staff and the Technical Committee of the Mechanism’s fund is not yet operational, whilst civil society organisations have also complained of a lack of coordination between Federal and State level authorities in the protection of HRDs and journalists.

PBI believes that the Protection Mechanism represents a crucial opportunity to provide effective protection for the HRDs who can strengthen Mexico’s democratic transition. PBI congratulates the public commitments which Lía Limón and Juan Carlos Gutiérrez have made to the strengthening of the Protection Mechanism and appreciates that important steps have been taken towards its implementation. However, it is clear that more must be done. PBI urges Miguel Osorio Chong to meet with the Mechanism’s Consultative Council and to commit publicly to the full and swift implementation of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. PBI hopes that the Mexican Interior Ministry will study the diagnosis of the Mechanism produced by civil society and will support the Mechanism’s operative staff in implementing the document’s recommendations.

For more information on the Protection Mechanism, download PBI’s recent briefing.

To see the original letter to Osorio Chong in Spanish, click here.

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