Bet-biraí Nieto Morales is a journalist with Alcaldes de Mexico
While attacks on journalists and priests in Mexico attract the most publicity and public outrage, the fact remains that community leaders and human rights defenders (HRDs) account for the highest number of killings – 125 in the last 5 years.
According to this latest report, in the 53 months since President Enrique Peña Nieto came to power, 266 community leaders and activists have been killed in Mexico, of whom 125 are human rights defenders. 83 were municipal leaders, killed while in office, and 38 were journalists. Since December 2012, on average two human rights defenders have been killed every month in Mexico.
During his recent visit to Mexico, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, highlighted the particular dangers faced by indigenous rights defenders and those campaigning to protect the environment from the impact of mega development projects.
“The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalisation of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both state and non-state actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,” said Forst.
“The failure to investigate and sanction aggressors has signaled a dangerous message that there are no consequences for committing such crimes. This creates an environment conducive to the repetition of violations,” he warned.
Two major contributory factors are the impunity enjoyed by organised criminal gangs and the failure by state authorities to provide protection to HRDs or to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice.