PBI-Mexico attends Contingency Plan meeting in Chihuahua

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On July 4, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project posted in Spanish on both Twitter and Facebook, “At the tables of the Contingency Plan of Chihuahua. A public policy promoted by civil society that seeks to implement protection measures for defenders in the state of Chihuahua.”

PBI-Mexico has previously posted on its website that the Mexican government and the governor of Chihuahua signed the Contingency Plan in June 2017.

It explained, “[The Contingency Plan] was created from the Early Warning System [that 26 civil society organizations petitioned for in March 2016] for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in Chihuahua.”

PBI-Mexico also explained, “The plan has 5 main themes: journalists and freedom of expression; vulnerable populations; the environment; the Tarahumara Sierra; and cross-cutting strategies like justice, transparency of information and the legal context.”

The report Turning the Tide on Impunity: Protection and Access to Justice for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, produced by Peace Brigades International and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), gives further details.

That report, published in March 2019, notes, “[Mexico’s Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists] has begun to address prevention through the development of ‘early warnings’ and ‘contingency plans’, a system aimed at preventing future attacks against journalists and human rights defenders.”

“In any state where an early warning is activated, Mechanism staff are charged with collaborating with the state government and, ideally, local journalists and human rights defenders, to put together a written assessment of the situation of journalists and defenders in that state.”

“The assessment is then used to develop a contingency plan with actions designed to combat the root causes of the risks posed to these groups.”

The report also notes, “Importantly, the plan includes strategies on how to strengthen Chihuahua’s justice institutions and legal framework in order to improve investigations into crimes against journalists and human rights defenders.”

“So far the implementation process been highly participatory: working groups between civil society organizations, federal and state authorities, and representatives from the OHCHR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights] and CNDH [National Human Rights Commission] are held periodically to discuss best practices for implementation.”

The report also points to some challenges.

“Despite the commitments made under the plan, Chihuahua authorities have not yet launched campaigns to raise awareness of the underlying factors contributing to violence against this population, such as the overexploitation of water, organized crime, and lack of government presence in the Sierra Tarahumara.”

“During [former President Enrique] Peña Nieto’s administration some federal authorities responsible for addressing specific actions related to the plan—such as those concerning environmental management or improving conditions in the Sierra Tarahumara—sent representatives who had no decision-making power to the working groups, and later provided little to no follow-up.”

The report concludes, “While not without flaws, Chihuahua’s experience could arguably be seen as a model for other Mexican states to follow.”

“Notably, in June 2018, the UN and IACHR [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] Special Rapporteurs for freedom of expression affirmed that ‘the Contingency Plan in Chihuahua, if developed properly and in a transparent manner, has the potential of becoming one of the best practices in the region regarding prevention measures for human rights defenders and journalists’.”

The Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project’s team based in Chihuahua has been observing the Contingency Plan process since May 2017.

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