Press Release

IACHR Condemns the Assassination of Defenders of the Human Rights of Migrants in Mexico

December 11, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the assassination of two defenders of the human rights of migrants in the municipality of Tequixquiac, state of México, Mexico. The Commission expresses its concern about these facts and urges the Mexican authorities to act urgently to identify the motives of the attack, to punish the direct perpetrators and masterminds, and to adopt the measures needed to protect the defenders of migrants’ rights in Mexico.

According to public information, on November 23, Adrián Rodríguez of Mexican nationality and Wilson Castro of Honduran nationality, who were engaged in providing humanitarian aid to migrants in transit in the corridor from Lechería to Bojay, a zone considered as “the death passage” (“el paso de la muerte”), were assassinated in Tequixquiac. According to the information received, while in his vehicle, Rodríguez was shot three times, killing him instantly, while Castro was shot five times, causing his death the next day at the hospital of specialties in Zumpango.  The attack was allegedly carried out by members of organized criminal groups who operate in the zone.

Members of the Colectivo Ustedes Somos Nosotros, which the defenders had joined as volunteers after three of the shelters where they were providing assistance shut down due to various threats by organized crime groups, reported that the two defenders had received several threats because of the work they were doing earlier. It is said that this situation was made known to the municipal authorities, from whom they had sought protection, nonetheless this production had not actually been provided. In addition, the  authorities were informed of these threats after the defenders served as witnesses, in February 14, in a matter against an organized crime group for the attacks it had perpetrated against 20 migrants who were at the dump in Tequixquiac. 

According to the information available, some members of the “Ustedes Somos Nosotros” collective have been beneficiaries of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists since February 2013. Nonetheless, according to the information received, the measures adopted by the mechanism have not been effective. In this respect, it was learned that several of its members were victims of various attacks and acts of harassment in the past. For example, on April 5 an unidentified person shot at a group of eight defenders, among them Jorge Andrade and another member of the Collective, who were along the train tracks to provide humanitarian assistance in the area of Lechería.  As a result of the shots fired, one of the persons receiving assistance was wounded.

As indicated by the IACHR recently in its report Human Rights of Migrants and Other Persons in the Context of Human Mobility in Mexico, it is an obligation of the Mexican State to investigate incidents such as these on its own initiative, and to punish the persons responsible, both direct perpetrators and masterminds. In particular, the IACHR urges the Mexican authorities to open lines of investigation that take into account whether the assassination of the defenders was committed because of their work defending migrants’ human rights. That investigation should also be undertaken with due diligence in an exhaustive, serious, and impartial manner. In addition, the IACHR urges the State to adopt all measures necessary to ensure the rights to life, integrity, and security of the human rights defenders.

As the Commission has noted previously, acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders only affect the guarantees that attach to every human rights, but are also an attack on their fundamental role in society, rendering all the persons for whom they work defenseless. The Commission also recalls that the work of human rights defenders is essential for building a solid and lasting democratic society, and that they play a leading role in the process for fully attaining the rule of law and strengthening democracy. 

The IACHR is also concerned that it continues receiving information on the persistence of challenges in the operation of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in Mexico. The IACHR has developed a series of guidelines that should be taken into account for the adequate functioning of specialized protection programs. In particular, the Commission recalls that a comprehensive risk analysis should take into account, among other aspects, specific circumstances particular to the context, and it should cover all possible beneficiaries. Moreover, practices should be developed that make possible effective coordination among the agencies responsible for implementing measures for prevention, protection, and law enforcement. Accordingly, the IACHR recommends to the State that it develop protocols for action that establish specific responsibilities and mechanisms of coordination among the agencies responsible for implementing the measures of prevention, protection, and law enforcement, so as to guarantee that human rights defenders can perform their activities of defense free from violence. 

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 149/14