Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Attacks on Migrants and Human Rights Defenders by State Agents in Mexico

May 12, 2014

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the alleged attacks reportedly suffered by some 300 migrant persons, as well as their subsequent detention, in the Mexican state of Tabasco. The Commission also expresses its concern about information concerning alleged attacks directed against Fr. Tomás González, Fr. Aurelio Montero, and Rubén Figueroa, defenders of migrants’ human rights and beneficiaries of Precautionary Measures 273/11, granted by the IACHR on April 19, 2013.

According to publicly available information, a group of around 300 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala were walking toward the municipality of Emiliano Zapata, in the state of Tabasco. The information available indicates that the group included two pregnant women, as well as children, adolescents, and senior citizens, and that they were being accompanied by members of “La 72” Migrant Shelter. It was reported that on April 30, 2014, on the outskirts of the community of Chacamax, the group was intercepted and violently detained by agents of the National Migration Institute (INM), the federal police, and Tabasco state police.

The IACHR has received troubling information indicating that Fr. Aurelio was arrested and that Rubén Guerrero was beaten. It was indicated that subsequently Fr. Tomás González, having seen that two migrant children were being separated from their mothers, placed himself in front of the bus in which they were going to be taken away; he was apparently pushed by an agent of the State, which reportedly caused injuries to his right hand.

According to the information available, during the immigration control operation, a large number of migrants were struck and insulted by State agents. Since May 1, the migrants have reportedly been detained at the “Siglo XXI” Migrant Holding Center in Tapachula (Chiapas). Human rights organizations have reported that they were having a hard time gaining access to this holding center.

IACHR Commissioner Felipe González, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, stated: “As Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, I am deeply troubled by these incidents. The State, including authorities at the federal, state, and local level, has the obligation to respect the human rights of everyone under its jurisdiction, including migrants, particularly rights such as the right to life, physical integrity, personal liberty, the protection of family, and the special protection of children and adolescents.”

For his part, Commissioner James Cavallaro, IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico, expressed his concern over the fact that some of those said to have been attacked in these incidents are beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Commission. “Friar Tomás González, Rubén Figueroa, and other members of ‘La 72’ are beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. In this sense, the State has a special obligation of protection. We urge the Mexican State to implement these precautionary measures, which are still in effect, in order to ensure the safety of the beneficiaries.”

In light of these events, the IACHR urges the State of Mexico to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, physical integrity, and safety of migrants in transit through Mexico who are in a situation of risk, as well as of those who work to defend migrants’ human rights. Moreover, the IACHR urges the State to ensure the application of international standards regarding the use of force in migration control operations and the observance of due process guarantees in migration proceedings for deportation; the exceptional nature of migrant detention and the need to implement alternatives to deportation; detention in conditions that respect human dignity; the need to guarantee the right to seek and receive asylum; protection of the principle of non-return; and the prohibition of collective expulsions.

Finally, the Commission urges the Mexican authorities to investigate these incidents diligently and impartially, and in particular to investigate the reports of abuse and excessive use of force by agents of the INM and police from different agencies during the events that occurred between April 30 and May 1 of this year.

The Commission reiterates that acts of violence and other attacks on human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees of every human being, but undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The Commission also calls to mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential for the construction of a solid, lasting democratic society, and rights defenders play a leading role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 54/14