Mexico – Threats, detention, raids, harassment, surveillance and stigmatisation of human rights defenders in t he state of Chiapas
27 June 2014
Over the past month, human rights defenders in Chiapas have been the victims of a series of attacks, threats, harassment, surveillance and stigmatisation. Most recently, on 24 June 2014, a raid was carried out on the home of journalist Mr Javier de Jesús Molina Estrada. Ten days before, human rights defender Fr Marcelo Pérez Pérez received fresh death threats. In addition, on 8 June 2014, human rights defender Mr Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez, Director of Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas – Frayba (Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre) was once again under surveillance. Finally, human rights defender Mr Mario Marcelino Ruíz Mendoza of Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz – Serapaz (Services and Counselling for Peace) was detained on 29 May 2014 and released same day without charges.
Javier de Jesús Molina Estrada, correspondent for La Jornada and poet, who writes about violence in Chiapas and has discussed potential solutions in his writings, reported that Federal Policemen and a member of the Public Ministry broke down the door to his home, stating that his home had been reported as a place of sale of drugs in an anonymous tip. No arrest warrant or report was provided by the officials.
Fr Marcelo Pérez Pérez and members of the Simojovel Parish Council have taken part in a campaign advocating for the closure of bars, nightclubs and centres of prostitution in Simojovel, in an attempt to decrease levels of alcoholism and drug addiction. On 15 June 2014, an attempt was made to break into the Simojovel parish house. This event came two days after threats were made against Fr Marcelo Pérez Pérez, to the effect that a price of between 100,000 and 150,000 pesos (5,500-8,500 Euro) had been put on his head. Earlier in the month, the priest and members of the Parish Council were the victims of defamation. In one incident, pamphlets defaming the human rights defender were distributed by people working in the Town Hall in Simojovel. The threats have been increasing following the peaceful pilgrimage on 6 June 2014 of members of the Parish Council of San Antonio de Padua, other areas and Catholic communities (approximately 3500 persons) in support of their campaign.
Frayba has reported on incidents where the municipal police, security and civil protection forces and ministerial police have acted in a disproportionate and arbitrary manner, with repeated use of inhuman and degrading treatment. On 29 May 2014, Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez was followed by different vehicles and photos were taken of him on one occasion. The surveillance continued on 8 April 2014, with one of the cars being parked in front of the organisation’s offices. On 23 May 2014, a person driving one of the vehicles used previously was seen recording events at a solidarity ‘caravan’. The person was asked to identify himself and hand over the recording, and the camera was found to contain photos of individual members of Frayba and those attending the protest. According to information received, the man was working for state intelligence services.
On the evening of 29 May 2014, Mario Marcelino Ruíz Mendoza was detained along with more than 20 leaders of the Consejo de Bienes Comunales de la Zona Lacandona (Council of Communal Goods of the Lacandona Zone), members of the organisation ARIC Independiente (Independent ARIC) and other civil society organisations. The individuals were arrested in front of the Government Palace by members of the judicial police as they were arriving to attend a negotiation with the Chiapas State government. They were detained on the grounds of rioting, attacks on general communications channels, and abduction. The group was to discuss the release of the legal adviser of the Lacandona community, to resolve the agricultural situation in the context of the conflict in the Montes Azules, and to gain recognition for the agricultural authorities of the communal properties of that region. Three hours later, Mario Marcelino Ruíz Mendoza was released. The following day, the other 22 indigenous people were released in accordance with the law. That same day an accord was signed between the Comisión para el Diálogo, la Paz y la Justicia de la Selva Lacandona (Commission for Dialogue, Peace and Justice in the Lacandona Jungle) and representatives of the Federal and State Government. Both sides agreed to prioritise dialogue and the creation of agreements to resolve the problem of the Lacandona zone.
Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the threats, detention, raids, harassment, surveillance and acts of defamation against human rights defenders in Chiapas State, which are solely related to their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Mexico to:
1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats, detention, raids, harassment, surveillance and acts of defamation committed against human rights defenders in Chiapas, in particular Javier de Jesús Molina Estrada, Fr Marcelo Pérez Pérez, Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez, Mario Marcelino Ruíz Mendoza and their colleagues, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Chiapas State, as well as in Mexico as a whole, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.