GENEVA (20 February 2023) – UN experts* today demanded answers about the fate of two disappeared Mexican human right defenders and urged the Government of Mexico to investigate their disappearance and bring the perpetrators to justice.

On 15 January 2023, Ricardo Lagunes – a human rights lawyer – and Antonio Díaz, an Indigenous leader were disappeared in the state of Colima, Mexico. The disappearance took place in the context of an ongoing conflict between the indigenous community of San Miguel de Aquila, Michoacán, Mexico and a Luxemburg-based mining company, Ternium – part of the Argentinian-Italian Group Techint.

The human rights defenders disappeared after attending a community gathering to discuss collective action related to the human rights impacts of the company.

Díaz is a member of the community that has been adversely affected by the mining company. Lagunes provided legal assistance to the community victimised by activities of the mining companies.

“The Government of Mexico must investigate the disappearance of Ricardo Lagunes and Antonio Díaz, whose fate and whereabouts are still unknown,” the UN experts said. “It must bring those responsible for the crime to justice, provide redress to victims and their families and guarantee their safety.”

The experts stressed that the prohibition of enforced disappearance, and the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, are norms of jus cogens.

“Enforced disappearances have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and silence critical voices,” the experts said, urging the Government to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their critical work in a safe environment, including strengthening the protection mechanism for human rights defenders.

“The government must ensure that businesses respect human rights across all their activities, including in the engagement with human rights defenders and affected communities” they said.

“Businesses should provide all the information they may have in connection to the disappearance of Mr Lagunes and Mr Díaz,” the experts said.

“Businesses must engage with human rights defenders and affected communities, particularly those with special protection needs, such as Indigenous Peoples, to help identify adverse human rights impacts and address them effectively, in line with their responsibility to respect human rights,” they said.

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*The experts:Pichamon Yeophantong (Presidente), Damilola Olawuyi (Vice Presidente), Elżbieta Karska, Robert McCorquodale and Fernanda Hopenhaym, Working Group on Business and Human Rights; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defendersIrene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; David R. Boyd , the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; and Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska, Luciano Hazan, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances