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Pope’s Visit to Mexico Is Opportunity for Human Rights

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Author: Daniella Burgi-Palomino

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Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico beginning, today, Friday, February 12th through Wednesday, February 17th is an opportunity to spotlight critical human rights issues that we have raised alongside supporters like you for some time. We have called for greater protections for human rights defenders and journalists who put their lives at risk for others every day, for migrants fleeing their homes for a better life who are increasingly met with more violence and persecution on the journey, and for better responses to the concerns of families of victims of enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions.

We are confident that Pope Francis shares our concern for these issues, and from his position of moral authority, we hope he brings attention to the following areas of grave human rights concerns, and challenges the government and people of Mexico to work toward greater peace and justice for all.

These are some of our greatest human rights concerns where your voices and actions matter:

Justice for the Disappeared
The families of Mexico’s estimated 27,000 registered missing or disappeared persons continue to look for their loved ones largely on their own.

  • Three family members and representatives of the group Familiares en Búsqueda María Herrera, that we accompanied last year shared the obstacles they face in getting the relevant governmental authorities to investigate their cases.
  • Civil society organizations have expressed concerns with the pending new Disappearance Law, including implementation, design, and funding for search mechanisms.

Truth & Justice for the 43 Disappeared Ayotzinapa Students
Over a year and a half has passed in this case while the family members of 43 forcibly disappeared college students continue to suffer without knowing what happened to their loved ones, and while the Mexican government continues to discredit the families and the independent experts working on the case.

  • LAWGEF and partners recently called for an end to the defamation campaign against the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) that has been gaining traction in the Mexican media.
  • Another set of independent experts, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, refuted the government’s trash dump theory around the incineration of the students that the GIEI had already disproved, citing inconsistencies between physical evidence and oral testimonies.
  • LAWGEF continues to stand by their preliminary recommendations from last year and call for reparations and attention to the families of the victims to be the center of the investigation moving forward.

Migrants’ Rights Violations
Mexican and Central American migrants continue to suffer rampant human rights violations, including extortion, kidnappings, sexual violence, and executions in their transit through Mexico.

  • Mexico’s increased migration enforcement has only made migrants more vulnerable to attacks and forced them to take new routes through the center of the country. See our new blog “More Migrants Are Coming, and They’re Arriving More Hurt”: Tales from Mexico City Migrant Shelters for more information.
  • While we applaud the creation of the new Unit for the Investigation of Crimes for Migrants and the Mexican Mechanism for Foreign Support for Search and Investigation,  its full implementation remains pending.
  • Along the U.S.-Mexico border, we hope that Pope Francis might reiterate his words to the U.S. Congress in the context of Mexico: “On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”

Protections for Brave Human Rights Defenders
Mexico is still one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders and journalists.

  • The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights condemned the recent murder of journalist, Anabel Flores Salazar, the second reporter this year to suffer the fate that at least six did last year.
  • In 2014, eight journalists were killed in the country for allegedly exercising their freedom of expression and in 2015 another six cases were documented.
  • The Human Rights Defender Mechanism still leaves much to be desired, and widespread attacks against defenders continue across the country.

See our blog here for more: Pope Francis: One More International Observer for Human Rights in Mexico.
Millions of people in Mexico and around the globe will tune in to hear what Pope Francis has to say in Mexico this week. Let’s encourage him to speak truth to power during his visit!

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