GENEVA (6 April 2016) – Three United Nations human rights experts* today urged the Government of Mexico to express its full support for the work of human rights defenders and civil society organisations, and to actively counter the current stigmatisation campaign to undermine their work as promoters of fundamental freedoms in the country.

“The Mexican authorities should publicly recognise that defending human rights and victims of violations of human rights is not only legitimate, but fundamental to strengthen rule of law, accountability, and democracy within the country,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst.

The experts’ appeal comes as a wave of criticism of human rights defenders, non-governmental organisations and members of international human rights bodies in various Mexican media outlets is contributing to a worsening climate for the promotion and protecting of human rights in the country.

In a targeted media campaign over the past month, several human rights defenders and civil society organizations have been accused of fraud and corruption, of defending alleged criminals and falsely claiming torture thus promoting impunity.

“The work carried out by human rights defenders and civil society in Mexico has actively contributed to promoting victim’s access to justice and truth, and is particularly important in a context where serious human rights violations occur and for a large part remain in impunity,” Mr. Forst stated.

The experts also noted that several national and international organizations and experts involved in the investigations of the case of the forcibly disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, including the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, have also been objects of campaigns to discredit their work and the results of their investigations.

“Any attack against the work carried out by human rights defenders creates a deterrent effect, silencing dissenting views and expressions by all those who exercise their right to freedom of expression or freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, said.

“The Government needs to counter such attacks and take measures to ensure a safe environment for individuals and civil society, free of harassment of any sort”, added the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai.

The three independent human rights experts expressed grave concern in relation to personal attacks against human rights defenders in Mexico, which increases danger, risk, and vulnerability for them and their work, and they have recently voiced their concerns to the Government of Mexico.

(*) Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN experts urge Mexico to counter current smear campaign and openly support right defenders