Thanks to the coordinated work of documentation by Urgent Action for Defenders of Human Rights (Acción Urgente para Defensores de los Derechos Humanos, or ACUDDEH AC for its initials in Spanish), the Comite Cerezo Mexico and the National Campaign Against Enforced Disappearance, we present in this report the figures that give an account of the aggressions, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances that have been committed against human rights defenders between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017 in Mexico.
In this period, 1442 human rights violations were committed against human rights defenders because of the work that they carry out—in other words, for their work defending human rights in Mexico. This number is significant when compared with the figure from our previous report as it is twice as high.
To fully grasp the severity of the problem, we can assert that in the period between June 2016 and May 2017 there were four human rights violations committed against human rights defenders per day in Mexico.
In the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca alone two human rights violations were committed daily. At the national level, everyday a human rights defender is physically assaulted and two more are arbitrarily detained.
Human Rights Violations against Defenders
579 human rights defenders were assaulted, attacked, threatened, harassed, illegally surveilled and/or followed. Over half of them—372—in the state of Oaxaca.
795 people were arbitrarily detained during the period that the report covers. During Felipe Calderón’s administration, there were 999 documented arbitrary detentions. A year and a half before the end of Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, there have been 2426 documented arbitrary detentions.
The detentions primarily take place as a response to the exercise of the human right to protest, as was the case with the protests against the increases on the price of gas (known as the “gazolinazo” and especially in the context of protest against the education-labor reform, which impacted students in urban and rural teacher training colleges and teachers in general.
To have an idea of the severity of the extrajudicial executions of human rights defenders, we must consider the figures from the Calderon administration, when 67 extrajudicial executions were documented. In the period that Enrique Peña Nieto has been president, there has been an increase of repressive tactic as almost twice as 123 executions—nearly twice as many as those under Calderon—have been documented. In the period of time that this report covers, from June 2016 to May 2017, the number of documented extrajudicial executions of human rights defenders is 57. In other words, in a year, the number was 10 fewer executions than in the six years that Calderon was president.
The main human rights that victims of extrajudicial executions defended in the period that this report covers are:
- 13 people that exercised the human right to protest
- 11 people that defended the human right to land
- 8 journalists that defended the human right to freedom of expression
11 human rights defenders were victims of this form of repression during the period that this report covers. 5 of them were victims of extrajudicial executions, 3 are free.
In general, the report tells us that the use of extrajudicial execution is the repressive form most often used by the State in the period that this report covers, compared to previous years. The use of enforced disappearance increased slightly compared to the numbers from previous years. At the same time, arbitrary detentions continues to increasingly be used against people who protest against structural reforms. Meanwhile, human rights violations against human rights defenders have gone from threats—most commonly used three years ago—to harassment—most commonly used two years ago—to direct attacks, which the figures from the two most recent years show has become the most commonly used form of repression. This clearly shows that the State increases the intensity of political repression faced with human rights defenders’ determination to continue their work.
Faced with these numbers, the Mexican State has deployed several discursive tools to hide, make invisible, or distract from the existence of the ties that link them directly to other actors. Thus, the urgency and force with which they act against those whose protesting entails economic losses for the market is also seen as they act against the people or groups of people whose work makes visible and proves that human rights violations ultimately benefit those state agents that are tied through different ways to the illegal economy and to corporations that privatize resources.
This explains why we can find cases in which the organizations or people who oppose a private company’s project and, yet, they are victims of serious human rights violations that were openly carried out by state actors.
Another curious characteristic is that in light of the decision to carry out the majority of human rights violations against human rights defenders by identified State agents, and faced with the denunciations of these actions from organized groups, the official response is always the same:
1. The events are denied
2. The victims that complain are accused of being themselves who attacked or also an unknown third party may also be accused
3. When the State’s participation can no longer be denied, it is asserted that these were individual actions by isolated people who got out of control and did not act according to protocol.
The strange thing in these cases is that the isolated people who got out of control and who do not act according to protocol, curiously act against actors that create problems or issues for the State. It is even more curious that each one of them gets out of control or not in accordance with the protocol, and yet they act in a very similar way, with a similar pattern, and against organized actors, human rights defenders, or journalists.
The refinement of the repressive techniques includes actions such as upholding the impunity of the human rights violations carried out, which means that the State covers up the wholes in the investigations of the most serious cases of human rights violations so as to avoid them reaching international institutions. In other words, it does not investigate, but rather only gives the appearance of complying with the law without this being reflected in progress on the investigations. At the same time, it accepts the visits of international human rights organizations, but it disparages the reports drafted by these international representatives. Furthermore, the State discredits even more the defense of human rights in two ways: allowing a campaign that equates human rights defenders as defenders of criminals and secondly, it weakens the international human rights system, strengthening international humanitarian law—which tries individuals, not state structures—arguing that human rights violations are individual acts, carried out by infiltrated or stressed out individuals, but that there has never been an order from state structures to violate human rights.
At the same time that the strategy of political repression becomes more refined, it also become more bloody. The final goal is to effectively stop, break up, and annihilate dissent. The figures documented in this report are proof of this. The people who have been victims of serious human rights violations that we document here have perpetrated the “serious crime” of obstructing the profits of the neoliberal market. All of them, in different ways, fought to defend the dignified life that is being systematically, and through violent means, being taken away from every Mexican.
Urgent Action for Human Rights Defenders (Acción Urgente para Defensores de Derechos Humanos)
Comité Cerezo México