Security of Mexican human rights centre staff

Who we wrote to

The president of Mexico.

What’s the issue

We’re concerned about the security situation of the lawyer Maricela Vásquez and her colleagues working at the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

The centre provides legal and psychosocial assistance to victims of serious human rights violations such as:

  • torture
  • extrajudicial killings
  • enforced disappearances

We’re aware that on 17 May members of the Human Rights Centre overheard cries and sounds of distress apparently caused by physical violence applied against a detainee at the Anti-Extortion Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office by members of the police force.

When they reported this incident at the Internal Control Unit, they were threatened with arrest. We’re not aware of any investigation being undertaken to resolve this incident by the relevant authorities or a clarification into the threat of arrest received by members of the centre.

We understand that this is not the first time that centre staff have been subjected to intimidation.

The centre has received protection measures under the Chihuahua State’s mechanism to protect human rights defenders and journalists. However, we understand that these measures do not give adequate protection.

We’re concerned that centre staff are being targeted because of their work to investigate serious human rights violations.

What we asked for

We urge that the relevant Mexican authorities to:

  • guarantee the right to life and physical integrity of Ms Vásquez and other centre staff
  • diligently investigate all the security incidents committed against Ms Vásquez and others working at the centre
  • bring the perpetrators to justice in proceedings that respect international fair trial standards
  • comply with Mexico’s international legal obligations and guarantee that Ms Vásquez and colleagues can carry out their legitimate professional activities without harassment and improper interference

Timeline

June 2011 – approximately 20 officers from the Federal Police raided the centre’s offices, seized documents and damaged the premises

September 2012 – centre staff were allegedly subjected to harassment by the State Prosecutor General’s Office and the Chihuahua Ministerial Police

January 2019 – a member of staff resigned from her job at the centre due to death threats made against her in a telephone call

May 2019 – centre staff observed that Chihuahua State police officers were carrying out surveillance of the centre’s offices. They also report the overheard incident at the Internal Control Unit to the police