Interview: Demanding justice for a son killed by armed men in Mexico

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Jyri Jaakkola's mother Eve talks about the death of her son

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25 August 2010

On 27 April, a convoy of human rights defenders, political activists and journalists in the Mexican State of Oaxaca was attacked by a group of around 20 armed men.

The convoy of 25 people and five vehicles was travelling to the indigenous community of San Juan Copala, to take badly needed food and medicines.

Two people were killed during the attack: Beatriz Alberta (Bety) Cariño Trujillo and young Finnish activist Jyri Antero Jaakkola. They were both human rights defenders.

Since their deaths, Bety's husband and Jyri's parents have been fighting for justice. They want those responsible for this crime to be found and put on trial.

Jyri's parents have decided to travel to Mexico and on the eve of their emotional trip, Amnesty International spoke to Eve, Jyri Jaakkola's mother.

Can you explain the purpose of your visit to Mexico?

Eve Jaakkola: We have lost our son and we want to get justice for him. We are going to Mexico to find out how the investigation on Jyri and Bety Cariño’s death is going. We find it very important that their murder is fairly investigated and that that those who were responsible for it are fairly punished. So far, we have heard and understood that the investigations have progressed and we trust that the authorities want to solve this case.

What are your plans during your stay in Mexico?
EJ: First, we will meet the lawyers of the victims. They will tell us about the situation, how the investigation is going and what plans they have to go on. I think they are doing a great job and we respect their dedication, to seek justice in relation to crimes against human rights and the defenders. I think they need all the support they can get and we want to cooperate with them and listen to what they have to say.

What took Jyri to Mexico, from Finland?
EJ: Jyri had worked for many years in many Finnish organizations and he was very interested in justice, and he worked on fair trade. But he thought: fair trade is not enough. I would say that he wanted a fair world. Justice was important to him, but justice for all the people, not only for rich people in the countries of the North. Jyri learned a new concept from the Mexican people, which he found very important and very beautiful: la "vida digna", a life with dignity.

He explained in his blog that he wanted a dignified life and self respect for all. Jyri worked so people all over the world could have "vida digna". That’s why he went to Mexico. He wanted to know more about the lives of Indigenous Peoples.

What impressed him the most during his time in Mexico?
EJ: He was very interested in the way Indigenous Peoples lived, the autonomy movements and their communities, how they conducted their daily lives. He also talked about climate change; he wanted to share these experiences with the Mexican people.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have been campaigning for the Mexician government to protect human rights defenders. Do you believe that your visit to Mexico will highlight this issue?
EJ: I hope so, I hope so, very much. We understand that human rights defenders work in dangerous conditions in Mexico. Jyri’s and Bety’s case is just one example of that. We are trying to help people who need it.

The Mexican government’s war on the drugs cartels has monopolised media interest. Don’t you believe that the government has to concentrate on this issue and maybe does not have the chance to work specifically on the situation of human rights defenders?
EJ: I know that drugs (traffic) are big business, but I also believe that it is important that the government also looks after the basic rights of people. The defenders of human rights work on this and I believe it is important to talk about them, to know about what they do and to protect them in their job. This is the government’s responsibility

How do you feel about travelling to the place where your son lost his life?
EJ: Well, the other reason for me to go to Mexico is to see and feel the place where our son spent his last months. We want to meet his friends and the people with whom he worked. In a way, we want to follow his footsteps, visit the people with whom he lived and hear what they can tell us about our son’s last weeks.

I don't know how we can stand that, in a way, I am afraid. But we want to do it. There is nothing more horrible than losing a child. We know that he was happy in Mexico, in Oaxaca, he loved Oaxaca and the people who wanted to share every day with him. He wanted to stay there for one year but he only managed two months, but he was happy there.

Read More

Humanitarian convoy in Mexico must be given safe passage to Indigenous communities under siege (News, 7 June 2010)
Mexican authorities must help community under siege by armed group (News, 11 May 2010)
Justice demanded for attack on human rights observers in Mexico (News, 5 May 2010)

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