Four UN human rights experts voice outrage at murder of Mexican activist

Four UN human rights experts voice outrage at murder of Mexican activist

United Nations human rights experts today issued a joint statement voicing their deep sadness and outrage over last week's murder in Mexico City of renowned Mexican human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa y Plácido.

"This act demonstrates the vulnerability of human rights defenders, and underlines the need for strengthening measures for their protection," said the statement issued in Geneva by four UN envoys: Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on human rights defenders; Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Sir Nigel Rodley, the Special Rapporteur on torture and Param Cumaraswamy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The statement said that while the Mexican Government had strongly condemned the murder, it was now its duty to carry out "prompt and thorough investigations with a view to bringing the perpetrators of this despicable crime to justice without delay."

"It is time that the Government brings an end to impunity, and takes immediate steps to ensure that Mexican human rights defenders are able to continue their work in safety and security," the experts said.

Ms. Ochoa, who was killed on 19 October, had gained international respect and acclaim for her integrity and courage as a human rights defender, particularly in providing legal counsel to imprisoned members of the Zapatista movement (EZLN) in Chiapas, as well as political and environmental activists.

In recent years, she has been subject to several threats, attacks and attempts on her life because of her work as a human rights defender, and UN human rights experts have repeatedly appealed for immediate measures to protect her life and physical integrity.

"It appears that Ms. Ochoa was under police protection until she left Mexico to work in the United States last year," the statement said. "However, these measures were reportedly not reinstated when she returned home in April this year."