Human rights defender Pérez. Human rights defender Pérez.

Search for the missing earns rights award

Holland awards Tamaulipas woman its Human Rights Tulip

There is little in the way of either support or recognition in Mexico for families who have lost loved ones to the drug war, but Holland has stepped in to fill the vacuum.

Mexican human rights activist Graciela Pérez Rodríguez has been named the winner of the 2017 Human Rights Tulip for her work in the search for missing persons and as an advocate for their families.

Pérez’s dedication stems from a personal tragedy. In 2012, her daughter, older brother and three nephews left their home in Tamaulipas to spend the weekend in Houston, Texas. They never came back, victims of a wave of crime in which an estimated 30,000 people have disappeared.

The focus of Pérez’s activities has been Tamaulipas, the state that leads the country in disappearances at more than 5,000. It is also known for high crime rates and a strong presence of criminal gangs, groups that have infiltrated all levels of government.

As Pérez worked to solve the crime that took her relatives away from her five years ago she became immersed in forensic science, and is a founding member of the Forensic Citizen Science project.

She and many other volunteers helped establish the National Citizen Registry of Disappeared Persons (RNPED) and a genetic database that streamlines the identification of victims’ remains.

“Despite the difficult circumstances in which she works, Graciela remains committed to searching for disappeared persons in Mexico,” said the Dutch foreign minister in announcing the award.

“Human rights defenders like Graciela are indispensable in the fight for a better world. It takes pressure from the inside to achieve real change,” said Halbe Zijlstra.

He will present Pérez with the Tulip on December 8 in The Hague. The Human Rights Tulip is an annual prize awarded by the Dutch government to human rights defenders who take an innovative approach to their work.

The prize consists of a bronze sculpture and €100,000 (about US $117,000), which is intended to enable recipients to further develop their work. Pérez will receive €25,000 worth of extensive training and support for her activism, and €75,000 to further expand the scope of her human rights advocacy efforts.

Source: Sin Embargo (sp)

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