No question, Mexico’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto was faced with many profound and pressing human rights issues when he assumed office on December 1st. With human rights defenders and journalists enduring alarming levels of threats and attacks in Mexico, including targeted killings and disappearances by both state and non-state actors that have gone largely uninvestigated and unpunished, many are calling on Peña Nieto to commit to provide the political will and resources needed to protect defenders and journalists and prevent future attacks.
The inability for human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work in safety spurred a group of civil society organizations to join together in 2010 to develop a proposal for a governmental protection mechanism, including the core preventative, protective, and investigative functions that a protection mechanism must embody to be effective. This coalition of Mexican civil society organizations, known as the Civil Society Organizations Group (CSO Group or Espacio OSC), has been the driving force behind what is now the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, unanimously approved by the Mexican Congress on April 30, 2012.
As the world celebrated the 64th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, Peace Brigades International-Mexico unveiled a new video, ‘The Duty to Protect’ (‘El Deber de proteger’) which chronicles the process which created the human rights defender and journalist protection mechanism. The film also highlights the voices of human rights defenders, including Agnieszka Racynska, Brisa Maya Solis, Abel Barrera, Alejandro Cerezo, Imelda Marrufo Nava, and Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra. The video underscores the need for the government of Mexico to assume the role of protecting human rights defenders and journalists by ensuring that the implementation of the protection mechanism does not stagnate during the transition from the Calderón to Peña Nieto administration, and ensure that adequate resources are provided to enable state and federal resources to work in coordination with each other.
During the event in which this video was released, the newly installed Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Interior Ministry, Lía Limón García, made several commitments on behalf of the Peña Nieto administration, including that they would effectively implement the mechanism, maintain dialogue with civil society organizations, and provide the mechanism with a budget of 41 million pesos (roughly US $3.2 million) for 2013. However, much more must be done. For a list of critical initial steps that the Peña Nieto administration must take to ensure effective implementation of the protection mechanism, click here.