RFK Center - Defending Human Rights In This World
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2010: Abel Barrera Hernández, Mexico

Fighting for the full spectrum of human rights of indigenous and rural communities and demanding protection of human rights defenders in the region

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Biography ▪ HRDs in Indigenous & Rural MexicoAn End to Military Impunity
Human Rights & U.S. AssistanceIn Defense of Rural & Indigenous Lands
Human Rights Award CeremonyProfiles, Interviews & Speeches
Speaking Out with Fellow Defenders Support the Work of Abel & other Laureates


In 1994, after 12 years of study in theology and anthropology focusing on indigenous peoples’ human rights, Mr. Barrera returned to his hometown, Tlapa de Comonfort, Guerrero, to establish what has become one of the most respected and successful human rights organizations in Mexico.  Once there, Mr. Barrera transformed a small and under-funded effort into an organization trusted by indigenous communities, respected by partner organizations across Mexico and the U.S., and a key voice for human rights in especially trying times for Mexican defenders.  

The founding of Tlachinollan in 1994 came in the midst of an emerging indigenous movement to revindicate collective rights in the Mexican state of Guerrero, and in particular in the Montaña and Costa Chica regions. Tlachinollan staff engages both indigenous and peasant grassroots groups, advocating tirelessly to improve their access to legal representation, healthcare, housing and education. Today, Tlachinollan has grown to employ a staff of over 20 committed individuals and in one year alone produced favorable results for 100 legal aid cases and responded to a total of 1,551 complaints, 377 of which were human rights violations committed by State actors.

Over the last six years, rising violence related to the Mexican government’s combat of narco-trafficking and the targeting of human rights defenders who denounce military abuses, led Mr. Barrera and Tlachinollan to condemn the excessive militarization in the state of Guerrero.  Mr. Barrera and his colleagues work under constant threat for reporting abuses, which have included forced disappearances, rape, arbitrary detentions, intimidation, dispossession of lands and illegal interrogations of community members. In May of 2009, in response to the situation faced by defenders, the Inter-American Court issued protective measures for 107 human rights defenders, including every member of Tlachinollan’s staff. In October of 2010, Tlachinollan's accompaniment of the cases of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú obtained a precedent-setting Inter-American Court decision condemning the Mexican military for the rape and torture of Inés and Valentina and requesting a series of reforms to ensure civilian oversight of investigations of military abuses.

Mr. Barrera and Tlachinollan have received the National “Tata Vasco” Award in 1996, the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2008, and the WOLA Human Rights Award in 2009.

Upcoming Event:

Human Rights Defenders in Indigenous & Rural Mexico

An End to Military Impunity

Human Rights & U.S. Assistance

In Defense of Rural & Indigenous Lands

2010 HRA Ceremony

Profiles, Interviews & Speeches

Speaking Out with Fellow Defenders