Lawyer Santiago Aguirre of the Tlachinollan Human Rights CentreSince 1994, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre has been defending the fundamental rights of individuals as well as the collective rights of Guerrero’s deprived indigenous communities.

The organisation’s lawyers advise and represent victims of human rights violations and their families and take on emblematic cases that exemplify the structural causes of human rights abuses.

Following an interdisciplinary model of ‘integral defence’, they use legal tools, political and media pressure, and national and international alliances to achieve change.

Among Tlachinollan’s recent cases are those of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, indigenous women who were raped by soldiers in early 2002.

The cases were heard before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACtHR) in May 2010. The Court found Mexico had violated the women’s rights and ordered, among other measures, improvements in investigation procedures of rape cases and an end to the application of military justice in cases of human rights abuses committed by soldiers against civilians.

In July 2011, the women’s cases were finally handed over to Mexico’s civilian court system.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) working to defend the rights of indigenous people in Guerrero are routinely threatened and attacked. In 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued emergency protection measures to more than 100 human rights defenders, including Tlachinollan staff.

Despite these measures, threats, aggression and harassment forced Tlachinollan to close its Ayutla office in March 2009. The office was not reopened until June 2011.