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CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Mexican CSO Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca (Consorcio Oaxaca) are deeply concerned about the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture against human rights defenders in Mexico. A recent report, jointly published by 11 Mexican and international human rights organisations, sets out how such practices are extensively used to restrict the work of human rights defenders.
The report documents five emblematic cases in which human rights defenders have been criminalised and arbitrarily detained: Damián Gallardo Martínez and Librado Jacinto Baños Rodríguez in Oaxaca State, Pedro Celestino Canché Herrera in Quintana Roo State, Enrique Guerrero Aviña in Mexico City and Nestora Salgado García in Guerrero State. Their situation has been acknowledged by the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which has sent five separate official opinions to the Mexican government emphasising the arbitrariness of and irregularities in the criminal procedures that led to their imprisonment, including fabricated charges, forced disappearance, torture, violations of due process, threats and defamation campaigns. Additionally, there is ample documentation of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that the five have suffered while in detention.
These five cases are just a small sample of a wider phenomenon in Mexico, where the conditions for civil society are rated as ‘repressed’ on the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks civil society conditions around the world.
“There is abundant evidence of a pattern of state action, including but not limited to arbitrary detention, against human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico, particularly at the local level,” comments Inés Pousadela, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “Widespread impunity for crimes against human rights defenders and journalists has resulted in permissibility for further human rights violations by both state and non-state actors,” states Consorcio Oaxaca’s Yésica Sánchez Maya.
Despite the concerns expressed by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, only two of the five activists have so far been released, and even then, judicial persecution against Nestora Salgado continues. Neither of the released activists has received any reparation. CIVICUS and Consorcio Oaxaca therefore call on the Mexican government to fulfil its human rights commitments under international law and guarantee the conditions for civil society activism. The two organisations urge Mexican authorities to:
• adhere to the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and immediately release Damián Gallardo Martínez, Enrique Guerrero Aviña and Librado Jacinto Baños Rodríguez, who have now been arbitrarily imprisoned for more than three years;
• issue directives to its officials to cease the vilification of human rights organisations and criminalisation of human rights defenders;
• design and implement a reparation scheme that includes follow-up mechanisms and provisions for the adjudication of responsibility for human rights violations in order to provide reliable guarantees that harassment will not be repeated.