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Disturbing Developments with Mexico’s Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists

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Author: Loren Riesenfeld

For many months, civil society organizations have expressed growing frustration with the slow pace of implementation of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Journalists, a program housed in the Interior Ministry (SEGOB) tasked with providing protection measures for HRDs and journalists under attack. Many HRDs and journalists who have sought protection through the Mechanism have been put on hold for upwards of 6 months. La Jornada reported on March 26th that of the 152 journalists and HRDs who applied for protection, only 41 of cases had been reviewed. Funding issues plaguing the Protection Mechanism have compounded these problems. Although nearly 263 million pesos (US $20.3 million) had been designated for the mechanism, bureaucratic hurdles have made these funds all but inaccessible.

Concerns escalated in mid-March when the director of the Protection Mechanism, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, and 4 staff resigned en masse, citing disagreements about labor conditions.  Their departure left the office with only five employees and a major backlog of cases of HRDs and journalists seeking protection.

Later, civil society representatives to the Protection Mechanism’s governing body showed their acute concerns with the Mechanism’s lack of leadership and ineffectiveness by walking out of a meeting with SEGOB’s Undersecretary of Human Rights Lia Limón. They conditioned future participation upon three points: hire a director for the Protection Mechanism with experience and a proven track record in the area of human rights, create a new policy to improve conditions for the Mechanism staff, and create a comprehensive plan to attend to the backlog of cases the office has accrued.

A robust Protection Mechanism is more important than ever. Reports indicate that violence against HRD and journalists in Mexico are on the rise. Civil society groups in Mexico have issued statements calling on Mexican authorities to urgently address the crisis with the Protection Mechanism.

This week, LAWG and partner human rights organizations echoed that call in a statement expressing deep concern regarding recent developments with the Protection Mechanism, urging Interior Minister Osorio Chong to meet with civil society groups as soon as possible and present a concrete plan to resolve the funding issues, administrative delays and other challenges plaguing the Protection Mechanism and protect HRDs and journalists who have been placed at greater risk following this crisis within the Protection Mechanism.

To read the statement issued by LAWG, WOLA, Peace Brigades International and Front Line Defenders, click here. Para español, haga clic aqui .