New Law Society Human Rights Committee Chair Sue Willman welcomes lawyer at risk on Mexican border

In her first official engagement as Law Society Human Rights Committee Chair, DPG director Sue Willman welcomed Maricela Vasquez, a Mexican lawyer from Ciudad Juárez, the militarised Mexican border town known for having the fifth highest murder rate in the world, and  in particular for femicide. Maricela works for a small NGO el Paso del norte Human Rights Centre which works in extraordinarily difficult circumstances on cases of forced disappearances.

Many such cases are linked to the fact local women are economically compelled to work long hours in factories producing cheap manufactured goods for the US, or to migration and drug-trafficking.

Maricela reported that it was routine for the local police to torture suspects and on a recent visit to the local police station her colleagues actually overheard an incident of torture which they intervened in and stopped. Since then the Human Rights Centre lawyers have been subject to surveillance and death threats.

Maricela, who was accompanied by Peace Brigades International called on UK lawyers to visit her forgotten town to help visibilise their daily struggle to exercise their profession as lawyers and reduce the 98% impunity rate. On behalf of the Law Society Human Rights Committee, Sue expressed solidarity with Maricela and committed to investigating possible support e.g. through publicising her situation or an intervention letter.

As recently appointed Chair, Sue hopes to build on the work done in the  Law Society’s international rule of law programmes supporting lawyers at risk, ensuring business means human rights and achieving greater gender equality in the profession.

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