Saltillo, Coahuila.- April 6th 2013. Representatives of PBI Mexico met with the Governor of Coahuila, Rubén Moreira Valdéz, to explain PBI’s work in the country and the organisation’s activities regarding the opening of a new regional team in 2013 which will cover the states of Chihuahua y Coahuila. Ben Leather, Advocacy Coordinator for PBI, also shared PBI’s first impressions regarding the situation of risk facing human rights defenders (HRDs) in the state following the exploratory mission carried out in 2012. He explained some of the challenges regarding the protection of HRDs in Mexico such as the investigation of the aggressions against them and the full implementation of the Protection Mechanism for HRDs and Journalists at the state level.
During the meeting in the Government Palace, representatives of PBI thanked Moreira for his interest in receiving the organisation and asked that he do everything possible to protect those who defend human rights in Coahuila and ensure that they have spaces to dialogue with the government regarding the issues they work on. According to the analysis of national and international human rights bodies, Leather outlined, in Mexico HRDs suffer threats, harassment, attacks, defamation, criminalisation and killings.
Moreira expressed his recognition for the important and legitimate work of HRDs in Coahuila and the fact that they currently face risks in reprisal for their activities. He expressed his commitment to protect this population, investigate and sanction the aggressions against them, as well as to ensure that civil society participate in the development of public policies with a human rights perspective.
The meeting took place during a visit to the cities of Torreón and Saltillo by members of PBI in order to prepare the opening of their new team in the North of Mexico. During this visit, PBI met with the Juan Gerardi Human Rights Centre and the Fray Juan de Larios Diocesan Human Rights Centre. They visited the Casa del Migrante Saltillo and observed a coordination meeting between state and federal government representatives and staff of this migrant shelter regarding the implementation of their precautionary measures, authorised by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in 2010.
They also held meetings with the State Human Rights Commission and representatives of other federal and state government bodies regarding the importance of the work of the aforementioned organisations and others such as the Familia Pasta de Conchos organisation, Laguneros por la Paz and Laguna Citizens for Human Rights (Ciladhac). PBI also observed a work meeting between the United Forces for Our Disappeared in Coahuila (FUUNDEC) and high level members of both federal and state governments and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico regarding the search for disappeared people in the state.
Regarding this issue, the UN Working Group on Forced Disappearances stated in their 2012 report that the number of disappearances in Mexico is more than 3,000 according to information registered by civil society organisations. Recent declarations by the Mexican Interior Ministry suggest that the number of disappeared people is closer to 27,000. This crime is typified in Coahuila, as recommended by international human rights bodies, however civil society organisations have expressed their concern regarding the apparent lack of coordination amongst the different authorities involved in investigating the disappearances, and the lack of results in the search for their loved ones.
Due to the situation of risk facing HRDs and the requests for international accompaniment received in recent years, in 2012 PBI carried out an exploratory mission to six Mexican states: Baja California Norte, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Estado de México, Puebla and Tlaxcala. The principal objective of the mission was to gather information regarding the situation facing HRDs and to evaluate the possibilities for PBI’s work in new regions. The selection of these states was a result of a careful analysis and the experience of more than ten years of PBI in Mexico, as well as the requests for accompaniment received over the past years and the principals and mandate of the organisation. Last week, PBI published the results of this exploratory mission in its latest report: Panorama de la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en México: Iniciativas y Riesgos de la Sociedad Civil Mexicana, available soon in English.
PBI will open a new regional team in 2013, which will cover the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. There, the project with provide international accompaniment similar to that developed over twelve years in Guerrero, Oaxaca and Mexico City, always at the request of local organisations and HRDs.