2018 has been a challenging year for human rights across the world. Many of those defending human rights have been threatened, attacked and undermined, despite the celebration of 20 years of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. PBI remains committed to protecting the space in which human rights defenders continue their arduous work in steadfast conviction that only when this protection is truly guaranteed will peaceful and democratic societies advance across the world.
2018 has been a year of change in Mexico with general elections seeing the first left-wing President elected with an astounding majority, breaking the chain of the Institutional Revolutionary Party´s (PRI) reign with a 6-year gap filled by the National Action Party (PAN). Mexican human rights defenders remain uncertain as to what this change means in terms of their situation of risk, however many are positive that at least on the surface this new government seems more open than previous ones to implement institutional and structural changes to combat the widespread violence sweeping the country and the human rights crisis that has been deepening throughout the past years.
Throughout 2018 Mexico has undergone evaluations by different international mechanisms, including UN Special Rapporteurs and the Universal Periodic Review which takes place every 4 years, all of which have confirmed the structural issues that continue to facilitate the violation of human rights throughout the country, highlighting corruption, impunity, institutionalised discrimination as well as a lack of political will to address the issues at stake. PBI joins the call from other national and international organisations who demand that the government take heed of the conclusions of these evaluations and implement the 2,602 recommendations made towards the Mexican State.
Within this context, PBI has noted that despite change in government, attitudes towards human rights defenders remain skeptical, specifically towards those who defend their land and territory against economic projects. This attitude seems to justify harsh repressive measures against them and the violence they experience in many states of the Republic. As natural resources become more and more scarce, territorial tensions increase. In 2018 this tension exploded in several areas of the country and manifested itself in attacks against those resisting in their territories and defending their land. In 2017, Global Witness identified Mexico as the third most dangerous country within which to defend the land, territory and environment.
Despite 4 years having past since the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, the family members of the missing boys are no closer to understanding what happened to them on 26th September 2014. The Mexican government has persisted with its version of the “historic truth” which has been dispelled by several national and international authorities. Lopez Obrador´s government has promised to re-open the investigation in the case, and those defending victims of forced disappearance across the country hope this will mean a glimmer of hope in the desperately bleak panorama that the past years have represented, breaking the chain of impunity for cases of forced disappearance.
Despite the many challenges, 2018 has been a year of struggle, of resistance, and of extraordinary bravery from those who, on a daily basis, put their lives at risk to defend human rights. We would like to take this opportunity to recognise the extraordinary role women human rights defenders have played in 2018, pushing forward debates on key issues and rejecting systemic patriarchal violence. Their dignified voices are a beacon of hope for those who believe that change is possible and remain huge inspirations to us at PBI to continue to support human rights defenders as best we can.