Update: Mexico – Detention of human rights defender Mr Mario Luna Romero

15 September 2014

On 11 September 2014 at 9:40 a.m., human rights defender Mr Mario Luna Romero was arrested by a group of men dressed in civilian clothing who were driving 3-4 white pick-up trucks. Though they did not identify themselves at the scene, the men were members of the State Police and escorted the human rights defender to the Ciudad Obregón office of the Attorney-Genreal of Sonora State, where he was held incommunicado until about 3:30 p.m. At around 6:45 p.m., the human rights defender was permitted an hour-long visit by his lawyer. The detention of Mario Luna Romero was confirmed by the Attorney-General of Sonora State who explained at a press conference late on 11 September 2014 that an arrest warrant had been executed against him in connection with the abduction of another Yaquí community leader.

Mario Luna Romero is the Secretary of the traditional authorities of the Vicam town of the Yaqui tribe in Sonora. The human rights defender is also the spokesperson for the Yaqui tribe and others, defending their rights in the context of the construction and operation of the Independence Aqueduct. The community has been working to prevent the diversion of water from the Yaqui river, over which the tribe has 50% ownership, to the Independence Aqueduct.

The arrest warrant issued by the Third Tribunal of the Criminal First Instance Court of Hermosilloes concerns the charges of abduction of a member of the Yaqui community who was detained for committing a crime on the tribe’s territory as an indigenous person. To read more these allegations, please read the Urgent Appeal dated 13 June 2014.

The arrest of Mario Luna Romero follow a Yaqui tribe protest on 28 May 2013 on Federal Motorway 15 to call for compliance with a decision of the Supreme Court when, on 8 May 2013, it found a violation of the tribe’s right to be consulted in the granting of the Environmental Impact Authorisation for the Independence Aqueduct, and ordered that a consultation be held. The consultation process is ongoing and Mario Luna Romero has an important role within it as spokesperson of the community. Between 4 and 6 September 2014, Mario Luna Romero led a delegation of the Yaquí tribe to Washington DC to raise the case and the request for protection measures before the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (MC452/2013).

According to the constitutional limit, Mario Luna Romero will be released on 17 September 2014 at 12:00 p.m. However, the authorities have requested that he be detained beyond this time so that the authorities can analyse the evidence for longer.

It is believed that the arrest and detention of Mario Luna Romero is part of an ongoing stategy of criminalisation of human rights defenders who are promoting and protecting the rights of the Yaquí tribe in its campaigns against the Independence Aqueduct.

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