Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Silvestre de la Toba, Human Rights Ombudsman, in Baja California Sur, Mexico

November 29, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of Silvestre de la Toba Camacho, who had served since February 2015 as president of the State Human Rights Commission of Baja California Sur, in Mexico. The Commission urges the Mexican State to act with due diligence to carry out the investigation into what happened and punish those responsible.

According to publicly available information, on November 20, 2017, Silvestre de la Toba Camacho was shot to death in the city of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. Preliminary reports by the state Public Prosecutor’s Office indicate that a group of armed individuals fired at the vehicle in which he was traveling with this family. Silvestre de la Toba and his 20-year-old son were reportedly killed at the scene; his wife and daughter were seriously injured. The IACHR observes that this event occurred in a context of high levels of violence in the state of Baja California Sur, which have increased this year. According to official information, there were 109 homicides in October 2017, a 240 percent increase over the same month in 2016.

Since the position of ombudsman was created in 1990 in Mexico, with the creation of the National Human Rights Commission, this is the first time that the head of this type of agency has been violently killed.

“This situation is extremely troubling to the IACHR,” said Commissioner and IACHR President Francisco Eguiguren. “Human right defenders play an essential role in the promotion, respect, and protection of human rights, and States have an obligation to prevent any attempt on their lives and their physical integrity and to ensure that the appropriate conditions are in place so that they can carry out their legitimate activities in defense of human rights without fear or reprisals, and free from any restriction. Considering this situation, it is urgent for the Mexican State to adopt all measures within its power so that this killing does not go unpunished,” he added.

The IACHR has learned of the federal government’s decision to have the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic support the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Baja California Sur in investigating this attack. In this context, the Commission urges the Mexican State to carry out the investigations into this killing with due diligence and to prosecute and punish the perpetrators. The investigation should also clarify the motives of this crime to make a legal determination regarding any possible relation to his activities in defense of human rights. The authorities should not rule out the defense of rights as a motive for the killing and/or attack before completing their investigation, and they have the obligation to provide the institutions in charge of investigating these types of matters with adequate resources and specialized personnel.

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 the respect for and defense of 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. 193/17