Press Release

IACHR Condemns Acts of Violence during the Eviction and Arrest of Protesters at the Office of the Human Rights Commission of the State of México.

September 23, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the excessive use of violence during the eviction and arrest of demonstrators who were protesting the increase in gender violence and the impunity surrounding this at the premises of the General Inspectorate of the Human Rights Commission of the State of México (CODHEM) in Ecatepec, State of México, Mexico.

The IACHR has been following the recent protests against the increase in gender-based violence and the lack of investigations and sanctions in response to reports of violence, sexual violence, femicide, and the disappearance of women and girls, which have taken place at the premises of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the CODHEM. The protesters have also spoken out against the lack of action on the part of institutional mechanisms to protect women’s rights, arguing that their quest for justice has been stigmatized by the authorities.

The IACHR learned through publicly available information that the demonstrators—who included children and a pregnant woman—were violently evicted in the early morning of September 11, 2020, from the CODHEM building in Ecatepec by police agents assigned to the Attorney General’s Office of the State of México. According to the Attorney General’s Office, 13 people were arrested during the operation and subsequently released.

Human rights organizations reported that 15 adults and 5 children and adolescents of between 5 and 15 years of age were taken into custody. Those arrested reported that they suffered physical abuse, insults, and threats. Some of their personal belongings were reportedly confiscated, including their official identification documents, and they are allegedly still being monitored.
Likewise, accredited journalists who were covering the demonstration and the eviction publicly reported that they had been harassed by police agents as they went about their work. One journalist was arrested and had her telephone and audiovisual material confiscated, neither of which have been returned to date.

The state informed the IACHR that on September 11, 2020, the Governor of the State of México used his Twitter account to condemn the actions carried out by the State Attorney General’s Office against the women who were demonstrating at the premises of the CODHEM. He stated that he had instructed the head of the State Council for Women and Social Welfare and the Secretary of Justice and Human Rights of the State of México to provide women with support to fully safeguard their integrity and rights. Likewise, in a press release dated September 17, 2020, the state noted that the Governing Board of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists had expressed its concern over the “increase in violent responses to free, peaceful demonstrations carried out by feminist groups and to women journalists.”

The IACHR wishes to remind the state of its obligations to respect victims of gender-based violence and their families and to provide them with appropriate care and assistance. Likewise, it wishes to remind Mexico of its duty to guarantee the rights to social protest, freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly, which enable groups such as women who suffer discrimination and have historically been silenced to publicly express their demands. In a similar vein, the IACHR reminded the state of its obligations regarding the importance of journalists being able to go about their work during social protests, and that particular attention should be paid to the integrity of women journalists, who need to be provided with special protection from acts of harassment and intimidation, which must be investigated and clarified should they occur.

The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression urged the state to carry out a diligent investigation into the use of physical violence and gender-based violence in the eviction operation that took place in Ecatepec, and the allegations of ill-treatment against those who were arrested, particularly children and adolescents. They also reiterated that it is the duty of the state to prevent, sanction, and eradicate violence against women and girls, while reminding it of its position as guarantor of children’s rights.

Finally, the IACHR urged Mexico to strengthen the initial contact that has been made between federal authorities and the protesters who remain on the premises of the CNDH, according to publicly available information, and to adopt the necessary measures to channel their demands, in the light of its international obligations to eradicate violence against women and girls.

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. 228/20