Vidulfo Rosales, Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre, speaking at Doughty Street Chambers, London, 15 June 2009The Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre’s work - supporting the deprived communities of Mexico’s Guerrero State - is indispensable. But the centre’s doors have been closed since March 2009 following threats, aggression and harassment against its workers and their families.

The Centre’s lawyers offer crucial protection and defence of indigenous rights. Their services include legal advice and representation to the families of human rights defenders killed because of their work, victims of sexual assaults, death threats and other human rights violations.

Over the past year in Guerrero, organisations working to defend the rights of indigenous people have faced repeated and deadly attacks. These have included the assassination of the president and secretary of the indigenous Organisation for the Future of the Mixteco People (OFMP), the extrajudicial execution of a member of the Organisation of Indigenous Me’phaa People (OPIM), and the year-long detention of five members of OPIM, who were declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

The tension in the region has increased precisely at a time in which these organisations have achieved important advances in the search for justice through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an entity that the OPIM and Tlachinollan turned to as a result of the impunity prevailing in cases of serious human rights violations of the indigenous population in Mexico.

PBI operates a team of international observers in Guerrero, accompanying both Tlachinollan and OPIM. Ongoing impunity for those perpetrating attacks against indigenous organisations and the use of unfounded criminal charges to stigmatise social activists are of serious concern to PBI and have created a dire human rights situation in the region.

Tlachinollan Centre lawyer Vidulfo Rosales was in London in June 2009 to raise awareness of this crisis. It was a unique opportunity to hear first hand about the situation for human rights defenders in Guerrero, the obstacles they are facing and their struggle to overcome them.

Also speaking was Nancy Tapias, researcher for Amnesty International’s human rights defenders’ team.

Read the transcript of Vidulfo's and Nancy's talks.