The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) will grant today its 2009 Human Rights Award to the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center from Guerrero, Mexico, an award given each year to organizations or individuals who significantly contribute to the promotion of human rights in Latin America.
"Tlachinollan's dedicated staff works in very difficult conditions and at great personal risk to defend the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized indigenous populations in Mexico," affirms Joy Olson, WOLA's Executive Director. "They have helped many, and in the process, professionalized the State's institutions by holding them accountable."
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. Guerrero has now become an important state for drug production and transit, to which the government's response has been the deployment of even more soldiers to an already militarized state. 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 has documented 14 cases of military abuses, including torture and unlawful killing.
Tlachinollan has also 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, Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and a 2007 WOLA award recipient, who is presenting this year's award to Tlachinollan, "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. "They are on the vanguard of human rights defenders and promoters. 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 today at 6:00pm during a reception 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 U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd.
"We feel honored to receive this award," said Abel Barrera, the Director of Tlachinollan. "We want to thank WOLA for its recognition of organizations like ours who work in marginalized areas and for looking to the Mountain region of Guerrero as a hot spot where serious problems intersect and exacerbate the human rights crisis in Mexico."
For more information contact:
Kristel Mucino, Communications Coordinator at WOLA, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 797-2171 or (617) 584-1713