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Mexico: Extreme violence against WHRDs working on impunity and justice

35 has learned with deep sadness the recent assassination of woman human rights defenders Teresa Magueyal in Mexico.

Teresa Magueyal was a woman human rights defender who searched for missing persons in Guanajuato State, Mexico. On April 6, 2020, her 31-year-old son José Luis Apaseo Magueyal disappeared in Celaya, Guanajuato. Teresa Magueyal was part of the collective “Una Promesa por Cumplir”, which was formed two years ago by the families of disappeared persons from various municipalities in the area of Laja-Bajío. The purpose of this collective, which is based in the municipality of Celaya, is for the families to continue the search for their loved ones given the lack of effective investigation or response from the authorities.

On the morning of May 2, 2023, Teresa Magueyal was riding her bike in the municipality of Celaya, close to the Garden of Children of San Miguel Octopan, when she was intercepted and shot by a group of unidentified armed men. This area is located 10km away from Celaya’s main square, which is known to be a place where criminal groups have had territorial disputes.

This event has occurred in a context of widespread femicide, marked by impunity and a lack of effective mechanisms to protect women human rights defenders. The State of Guanajuato is among the most lethal states for human rights defenders searching for disappeared persons in Mexico. Furthermore, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has identified these attacks and assassinations against human rights defenders as “reprisals for their search of disappeared persons.”

Earlier this year, received information regarding the physical and verbal aggression, and acts of intimidation against Araceli Rodríguez Nava, a representative of the Colibrí Collective, member of the Movement for the Disappeared in Mexico and human rights defender, a beneficiary of protection measures from the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists of Mexico. Ms Rodríguez works to achieve truth, justice, and reparation for the forced disappearance of her son, Luis Ángel León Rodríguez, a federal police officer who disappeared in the line of duty along with six other federal police officers and a civilian on November 16, 2009, in Zitácuaro, Michoacán.

On March 4, 2023, an unidentified armed group intercepted Araceli Rodríguez and her escorts as they passed through a toll booth in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, while they were travelling on the Autopista del Sol, in the Acapulco-Cuernavaca section. The vehicles of the armed group intercepted the path of the truck in which Araceli Rodríguez and her escort were travelling, into which heavily armed unknown individuals got in and took the wheel. As they continued driving on the highway, the attackers beat and threatened the human rights defender and her bodyguards for approximately half an hour, stating that “they were being investigated.” Subsequently, they parked the vehicle on the shoulder of the highway, first lowering their escorts with high-sounding words, and later, one of the attackers gave the order for the human rights defender to be brought down, once again subjecting them to beatings and insults. The attackers stole the vehicle in which the human rights defender was travelling, provided by the Protection Mechanism, and left Ms Rodríguez Nava on the side of the highway along with her bodyguards, all of them tied hand and foot.

This attack occurred days after, Araceli Rodríguez, represented by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), presented an individual communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding the enforced disappearance of her son. In a press conference, Ms Rodríguez denounced the negligence and omissions of the State of Mexico in its duty to investigate the forced disappearance of her son, Luis Ángel, and to locate him, as well as to identify the perpetrators and masterminds and clarify the truth about the facts.