Following killing, ICJ asks Mexico to protect human rights defenders

The ICJ today wrote to Mexican President Vincente Fox (photo) asking for a full investigation into the murder of human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa, with a view to prosecuting those persons responsible.

The ICJ further requested that the Government take measures to investigate all instances of lawyers, judges and human rights defenders who have come under threat, and take such measures as are necessary to ensure their protection and security.

Ms. Ochoa, a former head of the legal division of a prominent Mexican human rights organisation, Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez (PRODH), had previously been the victim of repeated death threats, kidnappings and an attempted murder. She was shot in the head and leg in Mexico City on 19 October. Her body was discovered with a note threatening death to several members of PRODH.

The ICJ had on a number of prior occasions expressed its concern to the Government of Mexico on behalf of Ms. Ochoa and other vulnerable Mexican lawyers.

In the 2000 edition of its publication Attacks on Justice, highlighting cases of persecution and harassment of judges and lawyers around the world, the ICJ documented a number of serious attacks on Ms. Ochoa, including an attempted homicide on 28 October 1999.

After this incident, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights requested the Government to take protective measures on behalf of Ms. Ochoa, following which the government granted her police protection. Ms. Ochoa spent part of 2000 and 2001 abroad. When she returned to Mexico in April 2001, security protection was not resumed, as the Government apparently concluded that the threats to her security were no longer present.

In several editions of Attacks on Justice and in the report published pursuant to a mission to Mexico undertaken in 1999, the ICJ underscored problems relating to impunity in Mexico, but these problems have persisted.


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