HRW urges Mexican authorities to protect activists in Juarez

February 24th, 2011 - 2:03 am ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON (BNO NEWS) — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Mexican authorities to investigate a series of attacks on human rights defenders and their families in the state of Chihuahua.

“Human rights defenders in Chihuahua take on huge risks for themselves and their families by documenting grave abuses,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“How many more must be threatened, abducted, or killed before the government takes the steps necessary to keep them safe?,” he added.

The homes of human rights defenders María Luisa García Andrade and Sara Salazar, both of whom worked with the organization Return our Daughters, were set on fire in separate incidents on February 15 and 16.

The incidents follow a wave of recent attacks against activists. Two of Salazar’s children, Elias and Magdalena Reyes Salazar, as well as Elias’s wife, Luisa Ornelas, were abducted on February 7, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Salazar’s daughter, Josefina Reyes Salazar, also a human rights defender, was killed in January 2010. García’s sister, Lilia Alejandra, was raped and murdered in February 2001.

On January 6, a rights defender and poet who coined the phrase “Not One More Death”, Susana Chávez, was brutally murdered in Ciudad Juárez. On December 16, 2010, another human rights defender, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, was shot to death in front of the state house in Chihuahua City, where she was holding daily protests to demand justice in the case of her daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre, who was killed in September 2008.

García, Salazar, and other staff of the organization Return our Daughters, together with members of another human rights organization in Chihuahua, were granted protection measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in June 2008. Mexican authorities, however, had failed to provide protection.

In the wake of the December killing of Escobedo Ortiz, the Inter-American Commission again urged Mexico to “take any necessary legal, administrative, or other measures to ensure that events such as this murder do not happen again.”

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the federal government to develop an effective protection mechanism for human rights defenders.

“The attacks on human rights defenders in Chihuahua underscore the urgent need for the Calderón government to work with civil society in creating a system that will protect human rights defenders and their families,” Vivanco said.

A group of Mexican human rights organizations presented a model for a mechanism that meets these requirements of that system to authorities in October. While the Calderón administration maintains that it is working on a plan for the system, it has yet to produce one.

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