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International mission attacked in Oaxaca; human rights defenders, activists and journalists killed or missing

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - 28 April 2010 - Yesterday at 2:30 p.m., a convoy of over 40 international and local human rights defenders, activists and journalists were attacked by an armed group in the town of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca state.

Two human rights defenders were killed. Finnish citizen Jyri Antero Jaakkola, and Mexican Beatriz Alberta Carino Trujillo, member of the Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos (CACTUS), both died from gunshot wounds.

According to locals, 40 other people in the international human rights mission ran away and two journalists remain missing. The total number of people killed, wounded and missing is yet to be confirmed by Mexican authorities.

The two journalists, Erika Ramirez and David Cilia García, are reporters for the journal Contralínea. According to the journal, Erika and David established contact for the last time with their colleagues in Mexico City yesterday at eleven in the morning.

Erika and David were travelling to Oaxaca to investigate the previous killings of Felicitas Martínez Sánchez and Teresa Bautista Merino. Felicitas and Teresa worked for the Triqui community radio station "The voice that breaks the silence" in San Juan Copala and were killed on 7 April 2008. No one has been brought to justice for their murders. According to local sources, one of the main concerns at the moment is that the Triqui region is more or less under siege, with no one allowed to leave, including those in need of hospital treatment.

The mission included human rights defenders coming from Finland, Italy, Belgium, and Germany, accompanied by representatives of local organisation the Red de Radios y Comunicadores Indígenas del Sureste Mexicano, Section 22 of the teachers union, the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) and journalists, including Erika Ramirez and David Cilia García.

Yesterday's attack adds to the atmosphere of insecurity and political confrontation that has been typical of the region since the beginning of 2007. This has been attributed in part to the declaration in January 2007 by the Triqui people of the creation of the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala, 350 km away from the state capital. Furthermore, there is information that confirms the presence of paramilitary groups in the area.

ARTICLE 19 expresses its solidarity with the families and colleagues of the victims. We urge the local and federal authorities to undertake all necessary measures to find Erika Ramirez, David Cilia and others urgently and provide all necessary assistance, including medical and repatriation.

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about the escalating number of attacks against journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico, and especially about the evident pattern of violence in Oaxaca. We also urge the authorities to launch a proper investigation into the attack and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
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