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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Mexico

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Mexico, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 30 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

After his appointment as President in 2006, following a disputed election with multiple charges of fraud, Mr. Felipe de Jesus Calderón Hinojosa, from the National Action Party (Partido Accion Nacional – PAN), and his Government took a hard-line approach in 2007, with a strong propensity to repress any form of protest. Moreover, contrary to the National Programme for Human Rights, developed in 2005 in consultation with civil society and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the new Programme was introduced in 2007 without providing NGOs with a real opportunity to give input, and the High Commissioner was excluded from its elaboration.

Some legislative progress was made, such as the adoption of texts on the sexual exploitation of children, a law to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women, and a law on the prevention and sanctioning of trafficking in persons. There have been mixed results regarding freedom of expression: on April 12, 2007, President Felipe Calderón promulgated the decriminalisation of "slander," "offence" and "defamation" at the federal level, which requires the Mexican States to amend their legislation accordingly. However, a stronger trend of repression against journalists was witnessed.

In March 2007, President Felipe Calderón submitted a draft constitutional reform that is particularly repressive with regard to criminal justice, insofar as it establishes an exceptional regime for the fight against organised crime and expands the powers of the Public Ministry. This draft allows in particular the Ministry to monitor telephone communications, conduct searches, and impose house arrest without a warrant. However, it should be noted that the reform also provides for the establishment of an accusatory criminal procedure that is oral, adversarial and public, the creation of judges responsible for supervising the legality of processes within the Public Prosecutor's Office, a strengthening of the rights of the defence, and the consecration of the constitutional rights of the defence, including the right to the presumption of innocence, to an adequate defence and to remain silent. In late 2007, the project had still not been adopted.

While torture remains a common practice in Mexico, the judicial system too often fails to provide justice for the victims of human rights violations and violent crimes. In addition, many prisoners remain detained without being sentenced, usually waiting for years before trial, which has led to overcrowding.

Throughout the country, the presence of the army has been strengthened under the guise of the fight against organised crime, in violation of international and regional human rights law. For example, in the State of Chiapas, the security forces' mandate was enlarged to cover claims of indigenous peoples, creating tension in the region.

Finally, in the State of Oaxaca, social conflict which began in June 2006 with calls for improved working conditions and the resignation of the Governor continued, as did arbitrary arrests, threats, violence and acts of intimidation against supporters of the People's Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca – APPO).1

Acts of intimidation against defenders denouncing arbitrary detention and abuse by law enforcement officers

In 2007, those who sought to expose arbitrary detentions, abuses and atrocities committed by the security forces were victims of multiple reprisals. For example, on May 28, 2007, Ms. Pilar Mayem Arellanes Cano, a lawyer and member of the Liberation Committee of November 25, which provides legal support to prisoners, and who also served for the Collective of Lawyers Victims or Representing Victims of Arbitrary Detention (Colectivo de Abogados y Abogadas Víctimas y de Víctimas de Representantes Detenciones Arbitrarias), was harassed and threatened with death several times by six unknown persons. Mr. Alejandro Cerezo Contreras, Mr. Francisco Cerezo Contreras and Ms. Emiliana Cerezo Contreras, founding members of the Cerezo Committee, an organisation working to defend the rights of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Mexico, also received death threats on several occasions in 2007. These threats were made following the denunciation by the Cerezo Committee of the arrest and disappearance of two activists of the Democratic People's Revolutionary Party (Partido Popular Revolucionario Democrático – PDPR) during demonstrations that took place in the city of Oaxaca in May 2007.

On September 6, 2007, the body of M. Ricardo Murillo Monge, an activist for the Civic Front of Sinaloa (Frente Cívico Sinaloense), an NGO known for denouncing cases related to public safety and conditions of detention in prison in the golden triangle conflict zone, was found near the Prosecutor's office of the State of Sinaloa. Mr. Murillo Monge investigated cases of abuse committed by security forces in operations carried out against organised crime.

In addition, journalists who denounced police officers suspected of corruption and implication in organised crime also paid with their lives for their investigative work.2 On April 6, 2007, Mr. Amado Ramírez Dillanes, a journalist at Radiorama, was murdered in Acapulco (State of Guerrero). Mr. Ramirez was known for his investigations into alleged links between the police and drug traffickers. Similarly, Mr. Saúl Martínez Ortega, Director of the magazine Interdiario and journalist from the daily Diario de Agua Prieta (State of Sonora), was found dead on April 23, 2007, in the State of Chihuahua. Mr. Saúl Martínez Ortega, who was abducted on April 16, was investigating the kidnapping and murder, on March 13, 2007, of one of his sources of information, a former city police officer from Agua Prieta.

Reprisals against defenders of the right to environment and the rights of indigenous communities

Defenders who have sought to defend the right to environment and the rights of indigenous communities, rights which are often in opposition with powerful economic interests, have been subjected to multiple acts of harassment, threats, physical assaults, prosecution, etc. On May 15, 2007, Messrs. Aldo Zamora and Misael Zamora, both sons of Mr. Ildefonso Zamora and activists against the illegal logging of National Park lagoons in Zempoala, were victims of an armed attack in Santa Lucia, Department of Ocuilán, State of Mexico. Mr. Aldo Zamora died and his brother Misael was very seriously injured. Two of the suspected assailants were known to be involved in the illegal logging of trees. Similarly, on July 4, 2007, Mr. Santiago Perez Alvarado, a lawyer and community leader of the Mazahuas, was arrested and severely beaten by four men in civilian clothes. Mr. Perez Alvarado, who supports the peasants and indigenous peoples from the Toluca Valley and from the south-east of Mexico State in their fight against various water and development projects, was taken to prison, where he was released the next day due to insufficient evidence. However, he was arrested once again in relation to another case pending in the Temascaltepec district, where he was then transferred.

Acts of harassment against defenders of the rights of workers, peasants and migrants

Defenders of the rights of workers, peasants and migrants have not been spared from repression. On April 9, 2007, the lifeless body of Mr. Santiago Rafael Cruz, organiser of the Peasant Worker Forum (Foro Laboral del Obrero Campesino AC – FLOC), an organisation defending the rights of workers based in the United States, was found in FLOC offices in Monterrey (State of Nuevo León). Additionally, on several occasions, members of the organisation Without Borders (Sin Fronteras), which provides support for migrants and actively participates in the creation of adequate policies on migration, were harassed by members of the National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración – INM). The INM thus produced a report denigrating the work of Without Borders after the organisation lodged a complaint against the Institute because of limitations on access to lawyers at the Mexico DF immigration centre. On May 20, 2007, an assistant of the NGO was subjected to an identity check at the Mexico City airport while she was boarding a flight to Tapachula to conduct a survey on security conditions and the situation of teenagers in selected immigration centres in this city.

Acts of harassment against women human rights defenders

Mexican women who fight for women's rights and their right to justice have also experienced numerous acts of intimidation to discourage them from pursuing their activities. Members of the association "May Our Girls Go Home" (Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa), an organisation which campaigns for justice for women abducted and murdered in Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua), have been subjected to insults, threats and harassment because of their activities. For example, on June 10, 2007, Ms. Maria Luisa Garcia Andrade and Ms. Marisela Ortíz Rivera, members of the association, received threats and insults by e-mail. On 22 June, Ms. Ortíz received death threats once again.3 Likewise, on May 7, 2007, Ms. Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, President of the Crisis Centre for Victims – Centre for Full Attention to Women (Centro de Crisis para Víctimas-Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres – CIAM) in Cancún (State of Quintana Roo), was the victim of an assassination attempt. On May 2, 2007, Ms. Cacho had testified at the trial of a contractor sued for child prostitution and trafficking of children. The contractor had threatened her at the hearing.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 See Annual Report 2006 of the Observatory.

2 In this regard, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a meeting on the freedom of expression in Mexico during its 128th session (July 16-27, 2007), and expressed its concern for the lack of security for journalists and for the alarming rise in murders, attacks and threats in the last several years (See Press Release n° 40/07, August 1, 2007).

3 See "Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa".

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