GENEVA (10 May 2019) – UN human rights experts* have condemned the lack of significant progress in the investigation into the disappearance of lawyer and human rights defender Ernesto Sernas García, a year after he went missing in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
At the time of his disappearance Sernas García was the defence attorney for 23 members of the organisation Corriente del Pueblo Sol Rojo, who were accused of terrorism and other crimes in connection with their participation in peaceful demonstrations in June 2015 against the reform of the education system approved in 2013.
“As we mark the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Ernesto Sernas García, the situation is dire for those he defended and who worked alongside him,” the UN experts said.
The group represented by Ernesto Sernas has since been acquitted but Corriente del Pueblo Sol Rojo continues to be targeted. The latest example of intimidation attempts and attacks against members of the organisation is the murder of indigenous rights defender Luis Armando Fuentes. He was shot dead on 11 April by a group of unknown men in San Francisco de Ixhuatán, Oaxaca.
The UN experts said that “the Mexican government has a responsibility to immediately take measures that effectively protect the members of the organisation Corriente de Pueblo Sol Rojo, their family members and everyone who defends human rights in Mexico”.
They said the attacks against the organisation and its members are linked to its work in defense and promotion of human rights, to its peaceful resistance against mining and energy megaprojects, as well as to its work in relation to the case of the forced disappearance of Sernas García.
The experts called on the federal authorities to assert jurisdiction and to carry out an impartial and thorough investigation into these cases, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
“We urge the Mexican authorities to address the underlying causes of the violence against the human rights defenders, in particular the adverse environmental and human rights impacts of megaprojects,” the independent experts said. “We are observing a worrisome intensification of violence against human rights defenders since the beginning of 2019, marked by forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.”
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico, 13 human rights defenders were murdered in 2018. So far in 2019, at least 14 human rights defenders and journalists have been murdered.
The experts are in contact with the Mexican authorities on the issues.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Chair), Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Vice Chair),Ms Houria Es-Slami, Mr. Luciano Hazan and Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius (members) of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression