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Police harass women's rights defenders

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 7 June 2010 - ARTICLE 19 is very concerned over reports that local policemen are harassing members of staff and survivors of domestic violence from the Women's Attention Centre - Centro Integral de Atención a la Mujer (CIAM). ARTICLE 19 calls upon the local and federal authorities to effectively comply with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights in order to guarantee the safety of the people receiving treatment at the centre and its staff members.

On May 31st, Cruz Antonio Garcia Javier, a local policeman from Benito Juarez in Cancun, Quintana Roo (southeast), who has a history of inflicting physical and psychological violence on his wife and children, tried to enter CIAM to forcibly remove members from his family from the centre. His wife and children were receiving psychological and physical treatment at the centre, following six years of systematic domestic violence.

Five uniformed and armed policemen joined Garcia Javier in harassing the human rights defenders running the centre by using their authority and status to coerce them to hand over the woman and children. The woman sought help from CIAM when she was not granted any form of protection from the local authorities, after twice reporting her husband to the authorities.

CIAM is an organisation that works to protect victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Staff members are habitually threatened and harassed whenever they try to report abuses against women and children.

Since 2009, CIAM, along with its founder and president, the journalist and human rights defender Lydia Cacho, have been granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). Under these measures, ARTICLE 19 activated the state mechanisms in order to stop the harassment that they have been subjected to since May 31st.

Furthermore, Cacho's risk has increased during the last few days due to the imminent publication of her new book, in which she denounces international networks of human trafficking: "Denouncing aggressions perpetrated against women and children is usually accompanied with threats and harassment. Firstly, the perpetrators of these abuses try to silence their victims and, if that fails, they target human rights defenders working with survivors of violence in the family," affirms Cacho.

On May 12th, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression jointly called upon the Mexican state to "to take all necessary steps to protect the right to life and security of human rights defenders in the country against any violence and any other arbitrary action which may be a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their activities."

ARTICLE 19 emphatically calls upon the Mayor of Benito Juarez Cancun, Quintana Roo, to stop and prevent all future aggressions against the staff of CIAM, and the survivors protected by the organisation, in accordance with Mexico's international and national obligations.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the local and federal authorities to effectively comply with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights in order to guarantee the integrity of the people, staff and survivors, at the CIAM.

ARTICLE 19 urges the justice authorities to take the necessary actions in order to investigate and sanction those responsible for violence, threats, harassment against all those denouncing human rights violations in Mexico, including domestic violence.

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