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14 January 2022

Concern at new armed attacks against indigenous communities and prevalence of impunity in the state of Chiapas

Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) and Front Line Defenders express their deep concern at a new wave of attacks against Tzotzil and Tzeltal indigenous communities in the state of Chiapas, in Southern Mexico. During the first days of 2022, local organisations reported armed attacks, disappearances and violence against the civilian population and human rights defenders in the municipalities of Aldama, Ocosingo, Chalchihuitán, Chenalhó, Chilón, Pantelhó and others in the state of Chiapas.

The affected communities have reported that the prevailing impunity related to these attacks has led to an atmosphere of insecurity leading to forced displacement. The indigenous communities have also reported that the armed groups originating from paramilitary forces maintain a strong presence and seek to control the region's territory. IPRI has documented community members’ direct testimonies mentioning that these groups are allegedly constituted by the sons of those paramilitaries who were trained by the Mexican army in the 1990s. They also mention that they reproduce intimidation practices aimed at inhibiting the exercise of indigenous peoples and community organisations’ collective rights.

Front Line Defenders and Indigenous Peoples Rights International express concern on the case of the murder of indigenous human rights defender Simón Pedro Pérez López on 5 July 2021 and in the municipal capital of Simojovel, which remains unpunished due to the lack of progress in the investigation. This impunity has enabled the perpetration of new acts of violence, which continue affecting the social fabric and security of organised communities. Simón Pedro Pérez López was a member of the civil society organisation Las Abejas de Acteal.

Since 5 January 2022, the undersigned organisations have received information about constant attacks by armed groups against the civilian population of the indigenous communities of Chivit, Stzelejpotobtik, Yeton, Xuxchen, Tabac, Juxton, Coco', Stselej Potov and the municipal capital of Aldama in the state of Chiapas. On the same day, Chiapas government authorities were alerted by inhabitants of the municipality of Aldama about explosions in their territory.

On 9 January 2022, shootings continued to take place in various parts of the municipality of Aldama. In the village of Xuxch, Tsotsil Javier Hernández de la Torre was shot when he and his family were on their way to his coffee plantation. Javier Hernández de la Torre is a member of the support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). He is currently recovering in hospital from a bullet that went through his head.

On 10 January 2022, a young indigenous man, Lorenzo Gómez Ruíz, died from a bullet wound in the community of Stzelejpotobtik while receiving medical attention in the hospital of San Cristóbal de las Casas. On the same day, at approximately 1am, a group of around 15 covered and armed persons entered the autonomous community of 16 de Febrero located in the municipality of Ocosingo. The armed group physically assaulted a minor, and forced a woman community member, Hilaria Hernández Gómez, to leave her house with her 3-year-old son Tomas López Hernández. Although Mrs. Hernández and her three children were later found alive, local organisations report that the armed group continues to be positioned within the community's lands.

The indigenous communities of the state of Chiapas that were attacked during these events have peacefully defended their collective rights to territory, autonomy and self-determination. Those rights are defended collectively, through the practices that builds their self-determination. Armed attacks against these communities represent an attempt to damage the community fabric and the collective commitment to safeguard their rights.

The undersigned organisations oppose the high levels of violence against indigenous rights defenders in the state of Chiapas, particularly in the municipalities of Aldama, Ocosingo, Chalchihuitán, Chenalhó, Chilón and Pantelhó, and reiterate our concern at the climate of impunity and the lack of adequate security conditions for these community-based forms of human rights defence in the state of Chiapas.

We call on the federal and state authorities to clarify the new acts of violence, to conduct an investigation with due diligence to bring those responsible before the law in an expeditious manner, and to ensure that the defender communities can live in a safe environment to defend and exercise their collective and individual human rights.