Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Human Rights Defender in Mexico

April 25, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder in Mexico of human rights defender Javier Torres Cruz, a member of the Organization of Campesino Ecologists of the Sierra de Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán. The IACHR urges the Mexican State to investigate and legally clarify this crime, and punish the perpetrators and masterminds.

According to the information received by the IACHR, on April 18, 2011, Javier Torres Cruz was killed by armed men near his community of La Morena—located in the municipality of Petatlán, in the Mexican state of Guerrero—allegedly because of his activities to defend the right to a healthy environment in the Sierra de Petatlán. The information received also indicates that his brother Felipe Torres, who was with him at the time the events occurred, was seriously injured.

The Inter-American Commission has received information about alleged threats, acts of harassment, and attacks suffered by Javier Torres Cruz and several of his family members since 2007. The information receive alleges that on December 3, 2008, Torres Cruz was detained illegally by soldiers of the Mexican Army, and that these soldiers reportedly turned him over to other individuals who subjected him to torture for several days. Javier Torres Cruz reported this situation to the Guerrero State Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and to the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State's obligation to investigate such acts of its own accord and to punish those responsible. The Commission also urges the State of Mexico to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and security of the relatives of Javier Torres Cruz, and to ensure due protection for human rights defenders in the country.

As the Commission has noted previously, acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to all human beings; they also undermine the fundamental role human rights defenders play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of all those whose rights they champion. The Commission also recalls that the work of human rights defenders is critical for building a solid and lasting democratic society. Human rights defenders play a leading role in the process of seeking to attain the full 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 a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 35/11