Transparency, Accountability and the Battle for Justice

Sister Conseulo Morales addresses CADHAC supporters.

CADHAC, a campaigning Mexican human rights group, has been short-listed for the prestigious annual Tulip Human Rights Award.

Citizens in Support for Human Rights (Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos – CADHAC), was founded in 1993 in the state of Nuevo León in Northeastern Mexico. Its activities have focused on helping people who have been wrongfully imprisoned, and families of the disappeared.

CADHAC has developed an innovative operating method that brings together families of victims, civil society and the authorities.

“Collaborative work makes the difference in CADHAC’s approach,” said CADHAC Director Sister Consuelo Morales. “All the actors – families of victims, authorities and organized civil society – working together in this mechanism of transparency, accountability and battle for justice are an exceptional example of collaborative practice. In a country like Mexico, civil society does not tend to trust the authorities and the authorities do not usually work or interact with civil society, at least not in an effective way.”

By promoting a collaborative approach CADHAC has been able to change the way the issue of the missing is viewed by the general public, by the police, prosecutors and by the judicial authorities. This has resulted in the introduction of more systematic and effective ways of investigating cases of disappearance and prosecuting those responsible.

“The authorities and organized civil society in Mexico rarely maintain a serious dialogue to look for solutions in favor of the victims of human rights violations,” said Sister Morales. “This mechanism of feedback and collaboration has been positive for the victims’ families and it helps us continue our work as their companion in finding new ways to access justice. At the very beginning of this dynamic we did not trust the authorities and vice versa, but instead of fighting, dialogue and serious, professional work from both sides has facilitated collaboration in favor of the victims’ families.”

Working with the police, prosecutors and judicial authorities, CADHAC says it has been able to locate 96 people who had gone missing in Nuevo León, including 56 who were found alive. The remaining 42 were apparently identified through DNA analysis.

According to Sister Morales, “The success of this dynamic has been the openness to accountability and the political will of state officials, in a context where these actions are not common, together with the active participation of and pressure from a civil society organization to the authorities to fulfill their duties. Also, the active participation of victims’ families has been very important, because their courage and bravery to battle for justice and truth is the motor that drives our work to demand that the authorities fulfill their obligations.”

The Tulip Awards are organized in association with the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands. This year’s short list of 30 human rights organizations from all around the world was taken from a long list of almost 160 nominations.

Kathryne Bomberger, Director General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which has cooperated with CADHAC, said the short listing of the organization for the Tulip Awards highlights a growing awareness that the issue of missing persons is a major global challenge that has to be tackled in new ways. “CADHAC is making an innovative and effective contribution to the search for the missing in Mexico and this is something that can serve as a model for organizations right across the world that are working on missing persons issues.”

Members of the public can contribute to the selection of this year’s winner of the Tulip Awards through an online poll that is live until 10 October here.