- Delegation of Human Rights Defenders travels to Ottawa, demands substantive dialogue between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Peῆa Nieto on Mexico’s dire human rights crisis.
The deadly and steadily growing human rights crisis in Mexico must be at the top of the agenda in the upcoming meetings between Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Mexican Prime Minister Peῆa Nieto, said a delegation of Mexican human rights defenders, Amnesty International and the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
Staggering levels of human rights violations have been documented in Mexico. More than 100,000 people have been killed and 27,000 people reported missing or ‘disappeared’ in the last decade. There has been a marked increase in reports of grave abuses committed by police and security forces, including enforced disappearances and widespread use of torture. Violence against women and girls is endemic. Impunity is rampant: with more than 7,000 complaints of torture officially filed between 2010 and 2013, there have only been 15 convictions in the last quarter century.
“We are here to break the silence and seek Canada’s support for change,” said Claudia Medina, a human rights activist from Mexico who was tortured by navy marines with electric shocks, near asphyxiation, sexual assault and threats of violence against her children unless she signed a coerced ‘confession’. She was eventually acquitted of all charges but authorities have failed to take action against those who tortured her. Claudia is now active in a civil society campaign that advocates against the use of sexual violence as a method of interrogation. “The deplorable truth is that I am only one among many women suffering the traumatic impacts of this crisis. My goal is that not even one more woman will be tortured in Mexico.”
“It’s been almost seven years since my brother Hector was disappeared after being stopped by police, and state investigators have yet to find him,” said Brenda Rangel. Ms. Rangel was five months pregnant in August 2013 when she spent 17 days camped outside government offices in Mexico City, demanding answers and justice. Despite threats from police and armed groups to stop calling attention to his disappearance, Brenda has continued in her search and joined forces with other relatives of the disappeared. “It is agonizing not knowing whether your loved one has been killed and buried in a mass grave or has been handed over to organized crime. There are thousands of other families in the same situation. We are speaking out, even though doing so puts our own lives in danger.”
“Mexican authorities can’t continue allowing people in need of protection to be abducted, raped and made to disappear,” said Marta Sanchez-Soler, who has led an annual caravan of mothers from Central America to search for their missing children in Mexico since 2004. A ten-fold increase in kidnappings of migrants and asylum seekers was recorded in a single year from 2013 to 2014. There have been numerous discoveries of migrants buried in mass graves, none of which are properly investigated. Ms. Soler’s organization has been a leading voice calling for justice and protection. “These are people’s children we are talking about. For each one of these mothers, this is more than a human rights crisis. It is a deep and intense personal tragedy, and the number of victims only keeps growing.”
“It has become a deadly business to defend human rights in Mexico,” says Pilar Arrese Alcala, an advocate with Centro Prodh Human Rights Center where she works to support victims of human rights violations, including Indigenous people defending their lands and survivors of sexual torture. “The measures the government claims to have put in place to keep us safe simply don’t work. The gap between the promise and reality of human rights in Mexico is vast. We are appealing directly to Prime Minister Trudeau to make human rights a top priority in his exchanges with President Peña Nieto. Pressure and concern from Canada will make a difference.”
“Women are the frontlines in Mexico, supporting survivors of violence and looking for the disappeared,” said Rachel Vincent of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. “As a country committed to equal rights for women and human rights, Canada needs to step to the plate to help these courageous women bring violence to and end and push Mexico to end the impunity for horrific crimes.”
“There will be much focus on the friendship between Canada and Mexico during President Peña Nieto’s visit to Canada,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “But friends do not ignore a crisis, which is what Mexico faces when it comes to human rights protection. Prime Minister Trudeau must press for action to confront torture, disappearances, abuses against migrants, and violence against women in Mexico. And he must insist that the impunity that fuels these violations is brought to an end.”