Mexico – Arrest of second human rights defender from the Yaqui Tribe

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10620824_707367122652185_6149717697185887211_nEarly on 23 September 2014, human rights defender Mr Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez was arrested as he made his way to work in the town of Vícam, Sonora State. At 6:50 am. as he walked on Benito Juárez Street, individuals dressed in grey got out of two unmarked white vans, and captured the human rights defender. A lawyer, who has had access to Fernando Jiménez Gutiérriz at the Third Tribunal of the Criminal First Instance Court of Hermosilloes, reports that the human rights defender informed him that once inside the vehicle he had a black hood placed over his head and he was questioned in an intimidating manner.

Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez is a spokesperson for the Yaqui Tribe, which is the same tribe as fellow human rights defender Mr Mario Luna Romero. Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez had been participating in meetings on the conflict of Aqueduct Independence on behalf of the Yaqui Tribe en Mexico City. He speaks for his community in the context of the construction and operation of the Independence Aqueduct. The Yaqui Tribe has been working to prevent the diversion of water from the Yaqui river, over which the tribe has 50% ownership, to the Independence Aqueduct.

Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez faces the same allegations as Mario Luna Romero; namely “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “theft of a motor vehicle”. These accusations arose out of the events of 8 June 2013, when, during a road block maintained by the Yaqui, a member of the indigenous group committed an infraction while driving his car and, in accordance with the practices and customs of the tribe, was detained, transferred to the Commissary and sanctioned. Article 2 of the Constitution states that, as members of an indigenous community with practices and customs, the community’s autonomy to apply its own norms is recognised, and allows for the use of an indigenous legal system to resolve internal disputes within the indigenous communities and towns.

Subsequently, arrest warrants were issued against various members of the Yaqui Tribe who oppose the Independence Aqueduct. Both Mario Luna Romero and Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez have been arrested within a matter of weeks.

Front Line Defenders is concerned by the pattern of arrests of Yaqui Tribe members who have been involved in the peaceful and legitimate campaign against the Independence Aqueduct. Front Line Defenders calls on the Mexican authorities to guarantee the space for human rights defender to operate in order to protect and promote the rights of communities in the face of extractive industries.

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