In his most recent report, published on 23rd March 2018, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, explicitly mentions those defending human rights in Chilapa de Alvarez, Guerreo and their particularly high levels of risk due to the hostile context in which they undertake their legitimate work: “Human rights defenders from Chilapa, where collective disappearances appear to have occurred with the acquiescence of the authorities, are particularly vulnerable to attacks in the context of organized crime and corruption”.
In this context, the Regional Center for the Defense of Human Rights José María Morelos y Pavón, with their headquarters in Chilapa de Álvarez, has undertaken work defending and promoting human rights in the central region of the State of Guerreo since 1997. The Morelos Center attends family members of victims of forced disappearances, such as the families of the victims of the mass disappearance that took place in Chilapa in May 2015, and the people who suffered forced displacements, such as the 40 Nahua indigenous families from the Quetzalcoatlan community in the municipality of Zitlala, that had to flee in January 2016 following threats and the killing of six community members.
The region where the Morelos Centre carries out it work defending human rights suffers high levels of violence and marginalisation. Chilapa de Álvarez is the municipality with the second highest number of homicides in the State of Guerrero, after Acapulco, and many of the poorest municipalities of the State can also be found in this area, within which the indigenous Nahua communities live. The high levels of impunity and corruption that characterise Mexico are heavily felt in this region, meaning serious human rights violations continue to be committed.
In this context, the HRDs working for the Morelos Center face various risks when carrying out their activities – including threats, criminalization, and impunity in case of threats or attacks. PBI has followed the Morelo’s Centres’ risk situation since 2000, when we first began our activities in Mexico, and since early 2017 PBI has accompanied the Center due to the increased risk its members face.
The Morelos Center is supported by numerous organisations from Guerrero, such as the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center and the Collective Against Torture and Impunity (with which the Center collaborates through the Guerrero Network of Human Rights Organisations), national organizations such as the National Network “All Rights for All” (RedTdT, which gathers 84 human rights organisations from 23 States of Mexico), and international organisations such as Amnesty International and PBI. In August 2017, these organisations came together to organise the first Civil Observation Mission in Chilapa and Chilpancingo that took place on the 19th and 20th September 2017. The mission extended its scope to documenting and monitoring the human rights situation to the whole State of Guerrero, and continues to alert on the grave human rights crisis that faces the region and the criminalization that local HRDs suffer.