From the 9th til 13th April, a delegation of lawyers from Spain visited the North of Mexico and Mexico City in order to hear first-hand accounts and to draw attention to the situation that lawyers who defend human rights find themselves in, they also wished to understand the state of implementation of the general laws of torture and forced disappearance as well as the strategies that the organisations and defenders use against the Internal Security Law.
Rarely when talking about human rights defenders do we think of lawyers, given that their important work is often invisible. However, in their essential work fighting for justice, they are at risk of surveillance, threats and smear campaigns.
Representatives from the Fundación Abogacía Española and the Colegio de la Abogacía de Bizkaia travelled to Ciudad Juárez, Saltillo and Mexico city in order to understand the situation of risk that lawyers who work on human rights violations face. In order to gain a holistic impression of the situation, the delegation met with various civil society organisations, representatives of state and federal authorities as well as representatives from the diplomatic corps.
In Ciudad Juárez, the delegation visited the Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte and the Red Mesa de Mujeres who explained the general panorama of the human rights situation in the boarder city. In Saltillo, Coahuila, the delegation was received by the Human Rights Center Fray Juan de Larios and Familias Unidas En La Busqueda Y Localizacion De Personas Desaparecidas to hear about the context of forced disappearance in the state, a topic that has received attention recently given the various reports from international organisations that have been released and a report from the International Criminal Court. In the Casa Migrante de Saltillo, the delegation was gratefully received by the team from the Casa and migrants who shared information about the issue of migration in the North of the country.
From the various meetings, the lawyers highlighted that the situation of risk varies for lawyers depending on the stage of the judicial process they are working on. For example, the hearing put the lawyers at the forefront, meaning they are more exposed to intimidations, threats and possible smear campaigns. Also, it seems that often, as is the case of human rights defenders, attacks against lawyers tend to remain in impunity. As a result of the various meetings, it seems that often lawyers rely on their own security strategies due to the insufficiency or inadecuate nature of the official protection measures, which is why the official statistics often don´t reflect the seriousness of the problem. Concerning the testimonies collected, one lawyer from the delegation noted, "situations that are not normal are often normalised".
In conclusion of their visit, the delegation agreed to follow up in order to strengthen aliances between Mexican and Spanish lawyers. They will release a report in the summer of this year in Europe, that will aim to draw attention to the situation that lawyers defending human rights find themselves in and the situation of the cases they work on, through highlighting conclusions and recommendations with key actors on a national and international level.