February 7, 2019

In the month of February the organization Familia Pasta de Conchos commemorates the 13th anniversary of the tragedy of the Pasta de Conchos mine, in the Mexican state of Coahuila, where 65 miners were killed in 2006 after a methane gas explosion. For the families, this episode caused fractures in their family and community dynamics as well as an irreplaceable void. In honor of the memory of those who died, on 19th February the families and the organization Familia Pasta de Conchos will head to Mexico City to attend a mass in front of the anti-monument Pasta de Conchos.

After 13 years of struggle and hope, and through the effort of human rights defenders, the case was admitted before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in March 2018, as one of the only mining cases admitted before the IACHR. Through the commission's report, the Mexican State´s responsibility in the non-compliance of its obligations to guarantee the fundamental rights of the 65 miners was recognized. Rights such as the right to life, given that the State did not oblige the extractive company Grupo México to respect the security norms, which resulted in the fatal incident for the workers and a point of no return for their families.

The group of family members directly opposes one of the largest extractive companies in the country, meaking it a hugely important case, backed up by over 1,000 petitioners and with international accompaniment and interest. Converted into a symbol, this case illustrates the path for future cases related to working conditions, because it documents how labor rights form an integral part of human rights, an issue that has hardly been reported on in the IACHR. Paradoxically, the case of Pasta de Conchos has not been lead by trade unions, but has arrived before the IACHR solely sure to the persistence of human rights defenders and the family members of the victims, touching strategic interests of large important economic and political actors.

As a consequence of her work on the case, Cristina Auerbach, director of Familia Pasta de Conchos, and accompanied by PBI, has been victims of many attacks and constant defamation in the press for her defense work. PBI has called upon the new Mexican Government to respond favorably to the requests of the organization and the families of the victims, and remember that compliance with the recommendations issued by the IACHR is mandatory. Non-compliance with the recommendations could result in the case being redirected to the Inter-America Court of Human Rights. It is also their responsibility to repair damages to the families and to rescue the trapped bodies so they can return home, as well as economic support to prevent families falling into poverty. Thirteen years later, the families are still waiting for their dignity to be re-established and for true justice.

We remind the Mexican State of its duty to protect defenders such as Cristina Auerbach and others across the country so they may continue their work in spaces free of violence and fear.

From PBI Mexico