Mexico City, August 26, 2019. At the request of the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB), the Office in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-HRC) conducted a diagnosis of the functioning of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (Mechanism). This diagnosis identifies strengths, good practices, and areas of opportunity to guide an inter-institutional strengthening process.
The document is the result of an analysis that included: a comprehensive documentary review of material on the Mechanism, both public and private; conducting over 100 hours of interviews with 147 people, prioritizing beneficiaries and officials of the Mechanism; observation and documentation of the Mechanism’s performance in different processes, including continuous monitoring since 2012; and exchanging reflections and proposals with individuals and entities experts in the protection of human rights defenders and journalists, including international human rights mechanisms. The UN-HRC emphasizes the transparency of the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB) in this process, without which it would not have been possible to understand the strengths and areas of opportunity of the Mechanism so profoundly.
The existence of the Mechanism reaffirms the valuable role played by human rights defenders and journalists in society and the need for the government to provide them with protection, especially in the face of a concerning dynamic of attacks against those defending human rights and practicing journalism in Mexico. In conducting this diagnosis, the UN-HRC reinforced its conviction regarding the great importance of the Mechanism, recognized as such by several of the 62 beneficiary individuals interviewed, who emphasized that the protection provided by the Mechanism is the reason they are still alive.
Jan Jarab, Representative of the UN-HRC in Mexico, highlighted that “the progressive development of the Mechanism represents six years of learning, largely resulting from the commitment of those who work and have worked in the institution.” He also mentioned that “the Law has shown the ability to offer a legal framework sufficiently flexible to facilitate the development of the Mechanism, and the participatory governance scheme it envisages is an international reference for citizen participation.”
“However, the significant advances highlighted in the diagnosis should not prevent us from seeing that the Mechanism continues to constitute an insufficient response for various reasons, some of which persist since its creation,” Jarab concluded.
The capacities of the Mechanism, particularly in terms of human and economic resources, are currently insufficient to meet the legal requirements and the real protection needs. The number of staff (36) has not changed since 2014, while the number of protected individuals increased by 236%, and this insufficiency is expected to worsen due to the growing trend of incorporation requests. For this year, SEGOB expects to be protecting 1,131 people, with an associated expense of 325 million pesos. However, the allocated budget for 2019 was 207.6 million pesos, corresponding to 64% of the projected expenditure and an amount lower than that spent in 2018 and 2017. In the face of the evident insufficiency of economic resources, SEGOB submitted an additional request for 150 million pesos on April 4, 2019, which has not yet been responded to.
The document also highlights that the Mechanism lacks a clear message of political prioritization that guarantees its main function of coordinating actions between the Federation and the federative entities to protect human rights defenders and journalists. One of the points emphasized by those interviewed by the UN-HRC, both beneficiaries and officials, was the lack of active participation by the authorities that make up the Governing Board. Following the commitments made by the Federal Government and CONAGO in 2017, some federative entities improved their response to emergencies, the effectiveness in implementing measures within their responsibility, and coordination for various actions, including prevention. However, these cases have been exceptional, and only 12 entities created their UEP, most of them without the necessary personnel and resources to operate properly. Additionally, it is noted that the Mechanism maintains its main focus on preventing harm, which is very important, without prioritizing addressing the causes that generate the risk, which must be addressed through political and preventive actions that allow nullifying the origin of the risk. The lack of this preventive approach is the main reason why in 2017 only ten cases were concluded due to a reduction in risk, and in 2018, none. It is essential to understand that without a preventive focus combined with action aimed at eliminating the causes of risk, the need for individual protection will not decrease, and ultimately, the Mechanism will become ineffective and unsustainable.
According to statistics published by the Mechanism, in 55% of cases where alleged perpetrators were identified, they were public servants, who are subject to a higher level of responsibility due to their obligation to respect those engaged in journalism and human rights defense and to refrain from attacks against them. However, the diagnosis reveals that the Mechanism currently does not have operational criteria that explore the relevance of: publicly condemning any attack by public servants; referring the matter to the relevant prosecutor’s office to initiate a criminal investigation; and initiating the corresponding administrative control and sanction procedure.
The need for changes represents a challenge that goes beyond the allocation of economic resources and requires a state response. In the face of this diagnosis and other efforts made, the UN-HRC sees it necessary to establish a route with a broad vision that allows for interinstitutional follow-up to the implementation of strengthening actions resulting from identified needs.
Finally, the UN-HRC thanks SEGOB for the opportunity to collaborate in strengthening the Mechanism and reiterates its full availability to continue supporting the implementation of the recommendations formulated in this diagnosis.
The complete document can be consulted at: https://bit.ly/2KPEmgN The executive summary is available at: https://bit.ly/2Nn9TYN
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In 2019, the UN-HRC documented at least 11 murders of journalists: José Rafael Murúa Manríquez, on January 19 in Mulegé, Baja California Sur; Jesús Eugenio Ramos Rodríguez, on February 9 in Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco; Reynaldo López, on February 16 in Hermosillo, Sonora; Santiago Barroso Alfaro, on March 15 in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora; Telésforo Santiago Enríquez, on May 2 in San Agustín Loxicha, Oaxaca; Francisco Romero in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo on May 16; Norma Sarabia Garduza in Huimanguillo, Tabasco on June 11; Rogelio Barragán in Zacatepec, Morelos, on July 30; Edgar Alberto Nava López, in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, on August 2; Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez, in Actopan, Veracruz, on August 2; and Nevith Condés Jaramillo, in Tejupilco, State of Mexico.
In 2019, the UN-HRC documented at least 13 murders of human rights defenders: Sinar Corzo, on January 3 in Arriaga, Chiapas; José Santiago Gómez Álvarez and Noé Jiménez Pablo, missing on January 17 and their lifeless bodies located on January 18 in Amatán, Chiapas; Gustavo Cruz Mendoza, on January 20 in Santiago Jocotepec, Oaxaca; Bernardino García Hernández, on January 23 in Zimatlán de Lázaro Cárdenas, Oaxaca; Óscar Cazorla on February 9