Press Release

IACHR Repudiates Killing of Human Rights Defender in Tamaulipas, Mexico

May 24, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez in Tamaulipas, Mexico. After the disappearance of her daughter in 2012, she devoted herself to searching for her; she was the impetus behind the Colectivo de Personas Desaparecidas de San Fernando [San Fernando Association of Disappeared Persons] and engaged in work as a human rights defender. According to publicly available information, Karen Alejandra Salinas Rodríguez was made to disappear by a criminal group in 2012. Her mother, Miriam Rodríguez, set out to investigate her whereabouts on her own. Two years later, she found her daughter’s remains in an unmarked grave in San Fernando.

After locating her daughter’s remains, Miriam Rodríguez proceeded to provide the authorities with the information needed to arrest those responsible. She continued to participate actively in mobilizations of relatives of the disappeared, and collaborated with various search associations, especially organizations made up primarily of relatives of victims of disappearance. She also worked to create the Colectivo de Personas Desaparecidas de San Fernando, in Tamaulipas, and served as the group’s coordinator. In recent years, these activities had made her emblematic of efforts to demand justice and raise awareness of the struggle carried out by mothers and other family members of the disappeared in Mexico.

According to the information that was released, on May 10—the date Mother’s Day is celebrated in Mexico—Miriam Rodríguez was killed by an armed group that broke into her home.

“We are absolutely dismayed,” said Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico. “The fact that so many State authorities knew of the special risk Miriam Rodríguez faced, and that even then she was killed in her home, causes us deep concern. The fact that this took place on Mother’s Day is also symbolic in an utterly disturbing sense. We urge the Mexican State to diligently investigate this killing and ensure that justice is done. This killing cannot and must not go unpunished,” she added.

The IACHR condemns this murderous act and expresses its dismay over the events that took place in the weeks leading up to it. In April, the month before the killing, two men accused of kidnapping Miriam Rodríguez’s daughter escaped from the Ciudad Victoria prison. When she found out, Miriam Rodríguez went to various authorities in Tamaulipas to request protective measures. The Tamaulipas State Human Rights Commission asked the Attorney General’s Office and the Public Security Secretariat of Tamaulipas to provide her with protection; this was granted in the form of three daily police patrols sent to the vicinity where she lived. Nevertheless, the human rights defender reported that the security officer who was supposed to protect her did not answer her emergency calls. Moreover, she reported that she was receiving no assistance from public servants at the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims, where she had also sought protective measures.

“Mexico is also a State party to the Convention of Belém do Pará, which requires States to prevent, investigate, punish, and eradicate all acts of violence against women, with due diligence, and to adopt legal measures to prevent all acts of harassment, intimidation, or threats, or acts that could harm or endanger a woman’s life or integrity,” said the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay. “The Mexican State has the obligation to investigate these terrible killings in a way that is serious, prompt, efficient, and without delay,” she added.

This crime took place in a context of violence against women in Mexico, which the Inter-American Commission took note of in its report The Human Rights Situation in Mexico. In addition, both in Mexico and throughout the region, women human rights defenders are victims of killings and other acts of violence and harassment, and are especially vulnerable because of their gender and their work of defending human rights. These are empowered women who defy the conceptions society attributes to their sex; this leaves them continually exposed to multiple violations of their human rights and to a greater level of risk, as the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have stated repeatedly. The State has a specific duty to offer protection, as it is cognizant of these contexts of violence against women and against female human rights defenders.

The Commission urges the Mexican State to adopt any necessary measures so that the system for the protection of human rights defenders is consistent with the principles of effectiveness and proper coordination. The IACHR calls to mind that for protective measures to be adequate they must be an appropriate means of protecting the person at risk; to be effective, they must produce the expected results so that the risk to the person being protected ceases. The State should take a gender perspective into account to effectively provide comprehensive protection to women human rights defenders.

“The State of Mexico has a duty to ensure the adoption of protective measures that are tailored to the specific risk factors faced by women human rights defenders in the country,” said Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño.

In addition, the Commission calls attention to the troubling situation of disappearances in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, especially the serious increase in cases involving disappearances of female adolescents. In fact, disappearances of female adolescents (from 15 to 17 years old) have increased since Karen Alejandra Salinas Rodríguez was kidnapped in 2012, even though at that time there was already a grave situation of disappearances of women, adolescents, and girls in Mexico, and particularly in Tamaulipas. According to official data and reports from civil society, Tamaulipas is where the highest number of disappeared persons in the country are said to be concentrated. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reports that 5,563 people have gone missing in the last 10 years in Tamaulipas, and 1,914 of these cases involve disappearances of children and adolescents. Human rights advocacy organizations have drawn attention to an alarming increase in disappearances of children and adolescents in the past several years. The IACHR urges the State to address this grave situation with urgency, in order to end impunity and ensure that this type of situation does not keep happening.

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 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. 067/17