Summary: Human rights defender killed in Mexico days after visit by UN Special Rapporteur

February 2, 2017: SRT grantee Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (CEDEHM) has coordinated a statement signed by more than 50 human rights organisations expressing concern at the recent murder of a human rights activist and calling on the Mexican government and the international community to take action. Grantees FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture were also signatories.

Juan Ontiveros Ramos, an environmental and indigenous rights activist, was abducted by armed men on 31st January 2017 and his body found the following day. On 20 January he had attended a meeting with members of CEDEHM and the Alianza Sierra Madre (Sierra Madre Alliance) along with governmental authorities, to discuss threats against the indigenous Raramuri people and their ownership of their ancestral lands. In October 2015 Ramos had also given video to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at a meeting to implement precautionary measures.

Ramos’s murder came a week after the visit to Mexico of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. In his closing report on the visit, Mr Forst said, “During my visit to Chihuahua, I became acquainted with the situation facing human rights defenders, who protect the rights of the Raramuri indigenous population, in particular the risks caused by organized crime and their lack of protection from the authorities […] I call upon both the federal and state authorities to ensure that all crimes against defenders of the rights of the peoples of the Sierra Tarahumara are duly investigated.”

In their statement, the human rights groups express their indignation at the kidnapping and murder of Juan Ontiveros Ramos and demand that the Mexican state “immediately take measures to ensure timely investigation and security of the indigenous communities of the Sierra Tarahumara, and allow the return of displaced families and guarantee their right to defend human rights.” They have also coordinated an Urgent Action with Amnesty International asking activists to write to the Mexican government.

Full text of the NGOs’ statement (in Spanish only):

The UN Special Rapporteur’s report is available here.

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