Environmental human rights defenders in Mexico: The issue of structural violence

Conduct that suppresses the right of association and assembly and false or unfounded accusations of alleged crimes against public safety presented by the authorities against environmental activists lead to victimizing acts, such as offenses against honor, judicial harassment, denial of due process, double jeopardy, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture and […]

Conduct that suppresses the right of association and assembly and false or unfounded accusations of alleged crimes against public safety presented by the authorities against environmental activists lead to victimizing acts, such as offenses against honor, judicial harassment, denial of due process, double jeopardy, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Excessive delay in judicial proceedings becomes a tool to intimidate and silence defenders, to demobilize civil society organizations and to impose obstacles to the legitimate exercise of the right to promote and protect human rights. These systematic and widespread violations, which point to the presence of a political strategy of victimization, are perpetrated in a diffuse context of stigmatization and delegitimization of the work of the human rights defender. These originate in smear campaigns against land and environmental defenders and their organizations, which are labeled as anti-development.

These are actions or omissions that favor a hostile scenario and create a situation of vulnerability, despite the international obligation of the State to create substantive conditions for an environment free of violence against human rights defenders, to provide effective measures of protection and prevention in favor of those at risk for carrying out their work, to diligently investigate human rights violations, to judge and sentence the material and intellectual authors of the attacks and to provide comprehensive reparation to the victims.

Otherwise, as stated by the Special Rapporteur, impunity will continue to fuel the criminalization of legitimate activities in the field of human rights, resulting in attacks against human rights defenders that terrorize organized civil society as a whole. Discouraging environmental human rights defenders from filing complaints sends the message that they cannot rely on the judicial system to seek redress for violations of their rights, which, in turn, weakens the rule of law in Mexico and leads to further violations.

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