Mexico: UN expert urges guaranteed protection for women human rights defenders

GENEVA (29 June 2020) – A UN expert today expressed grave concern about intimidation, threats and killings targeting women human rights defenders in Mexico, and called on the country’s Government to ensure women activists are protected.

Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of women human rights defenders, made the comments after a spate of threats against members of the Consorcio de Oaxaca, a civic group based in the city of Oaxaca focused on fighting impunity and promoting women’s human rights and gender equality.

"The level of vulnerability in which human rights defenders find themselves in certain regions of Mexico is extremely worrying. It is even more worrying to note the extraordinary risks faced by women human rights defenders and those dedicated to fighting for women's rights,” Lawlor said.

"Impunity and corruption in the justice system encourage criminality and undermine the fight against gender violence, while fuelling a continuation of violence against defenders in the country,” the expert said.

On 15 June, a bag containing pieces of what appeared to be an animal head was found on the door of Consorcio de Oaxaca’s office, together with a threatening note attributed to an organised crime group. The incident followed the organisation's demands for justice for the unsolved femicide of photojournalist María del Sol Cruz Jarquín, which occurred on 2 June 2018.

Jarquín’s mother is a prominent member of a campaign known as "Until Justice Arrives”, in which women defenders are fighting against femicide and demanding justice, truth and reparation.

The Special Rapporteur said Mexico has international obligations and in particular must ensure the protection of women human rights defenders against violations committed by its agents but also by private entities, as well as adopt measures to prevent future injuries and take retrospective measures in response to injuries already inflicted.

Lawlor said that mainstreaming a gender perspective to respond to the specific risks and security needs of women defenders and those working on women's rights or gender issues is of utmost importance in a context like Mexico's where gender-based violence continues unabated.

"I urge the government of Mexico to take appropriate action in the face of any foreseeable threat to the life or physical integrity of any women human rights defender,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The expert’s call has been endorsed Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls: Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Alda Facio, Meskerem Geset Techane, Ivana Radačić, and Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair).

The experts are in a dialogue with Mexican authorities and will continue to closely monitor the situation.


The expert: Ms. Mary LAWLOR (Ireland) is the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was the Director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, became a Board member in 1975 and was elected Chair from 1983 to 1987.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Mexico