IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Condemns Illegitimate Deprivation of Liberty of Human Rights Defenders Obtilia Eugenio Manuel and Hilario Cornelio Castro in Mexico

February 26, 2019

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) emphatically condemns the illegitimate deprivation of liberty of human rights defenders Obtilia Eugenio Manuel and Hilario Cornelio Castro, on February 12-19, 2019 in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

According to publicly available information, Obtilia Eugenio Manuel and Hilario Cornelio Castro—both of them defenders of indigenous and human rights who belong to the Organization of Me’Phaa Indigenous Peoples (OPIM, by its Spanish acronym)—went missing on February 12, as they travelled from Tierra Colorada to Chilpancingo, in the state of Guerrero, using public transport. They only resurfaced again on February 19. According to the information provided on February 13 by the government of the state of Guerrero, the state’s Public Security and Interior Ministries and the Office of its Attorney General all activated as soon as the disappearance was reported the relevant search and location protocols, including the permanent deployment of security forces on land and by air. Also, two investigation files were opened, one for the crime of disappearance of persons in the General Prosecutor's Office of the state of Guerrero; and another for the crime of deprivation of personal liberty in the judicial district of Allende. In addition, the IACHR was informed that the Special Prosecutor Office on the Matter of Forced Disappearance and Search of Missing Persons decreed the implementation of precautionary measures in order to safeguard the integrity of the other members of the Me'Pha Indigenous Peoples Organization and relatives of missing persons.

Finally, on February 19, they were located alive in a joint operation conducted by the National Defense Ministry, the national Office of the Attorney General and the Guerrero Office of the Attorney General, following instructions from the people who held the two human rights defenders captive.

The Commission expresses its outrage about these events and about the fact that Obtilia Eugenio Manuel had reported threats on several occasions in recent months. In particular, over a few days prior to her disappearance, she received several death threats which were duly notified to the relevant authorities.

The IACHR warns that Obtilia Eugenio Manuel was in the past a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR, and that she has been since 2009 a beneficiary of provisional measures granted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission expresses its serious concern about the fact that this disappearance happened in spite of those provisional measures, and it urges the Mexican State to reinforce any protection measures necessary to prevent such events from happening again in the future. “The IACHR will continue to monitor the provisional measures in force granted by the Inter-American Court,” said the IACHR’s President and Rapporteur for Mexico, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño.

Further, the Commission stresses that the State has an obligation to investigate such events on its own initiative and to punish their perpetrators and masterminds. “The Mexican State must open up lines of investigation that consider whether Obtilia Eugenio Manuel and Hilario Cornelio Castro were illegitimately deprived of their liberty for their work in defense of human rights,” said Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders. “That investigation needs to be conducted with due diligence and must be thorough, serious and impartial,” Commissioner Eguiguren added. The Commission stresses that, in the cases of women human rights defenders, the State duly consider the inherent risk involved in their work, which compounds the gender-based discrimination they face. The State must therefore take any reasonable action to prevent acts of violence against them and to remedy the context of discrimination that encourages the repetition of such events. In particular, the State must adopt a differentiated approach when investigating, trying and punishing those crimes and when providing reparations for them, including a gender and ethnic-racial perspective.

The Commission stresses that acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees they are due as human beings. They also impact the fundamental role those defenders play in society. Such attacks harm the people for whom defenders work, increasing their vulnerability and leaving them defenseless.

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 and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. 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.

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 and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. 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. 043/19