The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is pleased to announce the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center from Mexico as the recipient of our 2009 Human Rights Award, an award given each year to organizations or individuals who significantly contribute to the promotion of human rights in Latin America.
“Tlachinollan stands out for its avant-garde work with the marginalized indigenous populations in Mexico,” affirms WOLA’s Executive Director, Joy Olson. “The Center’s dedicated staff, often at their own personal risk, defends important cases of human rights violations against this vulnerable population.”
Tlachinollan, based in Tlapa de Comonfort, has worked for over 15 years in one of the poorest regions in Mexico: the Montaña and Costa Chica regions of the state of Guerrero, where poverty, discrimination, and abandonment of the indigenous communities are common and these communities are deprived of the right to justice and dignity. A target for Mexico’s “dirty war” against left-wing rebels from 1964-1982, Guerrero has now become an important state for drug production as well as transit; to which the government’s response has been further militarization. During its first ten years (1994-2004), Tlachinollan documented 68 cases of human rights violations by the Mexican military involving torture, forced disappearance, and the rape of indigenous women. In 2009 alone, Tlachinollan documented 14 cases of military abuses.
In addition to continuously denouncing the dangers of militarization in Guerrero, Tlachinollan has tirelessly worked for indigenous communities’ access to education, health services, and justice. In 2007, the Center co-founded with two other Mexican organizations the Civilian Police Monitor of the Police and Security Forces in the Montaña Region of Guerrero. This innovative project monitors and documents abuses by security forces operating in the region and seeks a resolution to these abuses for the victims, including defending police whose labor rights have been violated.
For Congressman Jim McGovern, a 2007 WOLA Award recipient and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, “the seriousness of the human rights situation in Guerrero underscores the importance of the work being done by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center. Tlachinollan has earned the respect of the international community. The award offers an opportunity to remind people that Tlachinollan is not alone; they’ve got our support.”
In February 2009, Tlachinollan was forced to close their offices in Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero due to threats, intimidation and persecution of indigenous rights activists who collaborate with the Center, including the murder of two indigenous leaders in February. In May 2009, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights granted provisional measures for over 100 human rights defenders in the state of Guerrero, including all the staff of Tlachinollan.
“We are honored to have Tlachinollan receive our 2009 Human Rights Award,” states Olson. “At a time when the human rights situation in Mexico, and in Guerrero, is of grave concern, WOLA reaffirms its commitment to work with partners like Tlachinollan in the defense of human rights.”
WOLA’s 2009 Human Rights Award will be granted during a reception on September 23, 2009 at the United States Botanic Garden. The 2008 recipients of WOLA's Human Rights Award were Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States and US Senator Christopher Dodd.
“We feel honored to receive this award,” said Abel Barrera, the Director of Tlachinollan. “It is a testament to the courage of the people we serve.”
For more information contact:
Maureen Meyer, Associate for Mexico and Central America at WOLA, [email protected], 202-797-2171
Teresa de la Cruz, Communications Coordinator at Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, [email protected], +52 (757) 476-1200