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Mexico – Killing of Indigenous Human Rights Defender and community leader accompanied by widespread legal impunity

35 is deeply saddened by the killing of indigenous Nahua leader and human rights defender Antonio Regis Nicolás.On 17 May 2024, the defender was shot dead after being stopped by an armed group, part of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, on his way home in the town of Aquila, Michoacán, in Mexico.

Antonio Regis Nicolás was a Nahua leader, human rights defender, and member of the Nahua indigenous community of Santa María Ostula. He was in charge of non-armed security in the community council, from which he worked on protecting the community and territory against invasions and dispossessions from organised crime groups. He also protected the territory from parties who sought to mine the land and exploit its resources.

The Nahua community has repeatedly been informing state authorities of the high-risk situation they are living in, due to continuous threats, attacks, disappearances and killings they face by criminal groups. Despite their repeated alerts, Mexican state authorities have not carried out any substantial investigation into these human rights violations nor taken any measures to solve them.

State repression is also a persistent threat to indigenous activists and to the rights they defend. At the end of 2023, received an update on the case of Kenia Hernández, an Indigenous Woman Human Rights Defender, who has been arbitrarily detained since October 2020. Before her arbitrary detention, KeniaHernández worked for the defence of land and the environment, women’s and Indigenous rights, and was involved in accompaniment missions of victims of femicide, political prisoners, and communities affected by extractivist and agribusiness projects. The judicial proceeding against her and her consequent ongoing detention is believed to be retaliation for her legitimate human rights work.

According to the HRD Memorial, a joint initiative by a network of national and international human rights organisations, 30 HRDs were killed in 2023 in Mexico, making it the second deadliest country for defenders. also acknowledges the concerning state of press freedom in Mexico. March 2024 marked the seventh anniversary of the murder of Miroslava Breach, a Mexican newspaper reporter who covered organised crime’s influence within the northern state of Chihuahua’s government. The Woman journalist was murdered on 23 March 2017 for exposing the links between drug cartels and political groups in Chihuahua state in connection with local elections. At this time, the instigators of her murder have remained untouched.

As Mexico held its presidential election on June 2, partner Reporter Without Borders asked candidates to sign a pledge to defend press freedom, protect journalists and put an end to impunity. Claudia Sheinbaum, president elect signed the pledge defining five strategic initiatives that would form the basis of a government action plan to protect journalists. Mexico ranks 121/180 on the Press Freedom Index and remains one of the world’s most dangerous and deadly countries for journalists.