Ernesto Ledesma Arronte, director of CAPISE

Re: Ernesto Ledesma Arronte, director of Centro de Análisis Político e Investigaciones Sociales y Económicas (CAPISE)

To: Attorney General of Chiapas, Minister of the Interior Lic. Santiago Creel and Governor of Chiapas Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia

From: Gail Davidson, Director, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada

Date: 2003-02-17

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a committee of Canadian lawyers providing support internationally to lawyers whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy.

LRWC is concerned about threats to the safety of Ernesto Ledesma Arronte, a human rights defender working with Centro de Análisis Político e Investigaciones Sociales y Económicas, (CAPISE), Centre for Political Analysis and Social and Economic Research. LRWC has received information from Amnesty International that Mr. Arronte received a threatening phone call in addition to suffering two break-and-enters, one in his home and the other at the CAPISE office.

On November 18, 2002, Mr. Arronte arrived home to discover that someone had broken in and turned on the gas stove. The window, which Mr. Arronte had left open that morning, was also closed.

On January 1, 2003, Mr. Arronte received a death threat at his home via telephone.

On January 3, 2003, two days after the death threat, Mr. Arronte arrived at the CAPISE office in San Cristobal de las Casas, to discover that the door was left open. No employees were at the office, and the door had been locked the previous evening, indicating it was an act of intimidation against Mr. Arronte.

Mr. Arronte is a human rights advocate in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. He has been active in denouncing human rights violations reportedly committed by both the armed forces and paramilitary groups.

LRWC is gravely concerned for the safety of Mr. Arronte, especially in light of past harassment and violence conducted against human rights protectors in Mexico. The personal safety of these Mexican human rights defenders is often put in jeopardy, while action is rarely taken to prevent violence or bring perpetrators to justice. A disturbing example of Mexico’s failure to protect human rights defenders is the death of Digna Ochoa, a prominent human rights lawyer, who was shot dead in her office in October 2001. This killing occurred despite numerous events clearly indicating Ms. Ochoa’s danger, and pleas by Ms. Ochoa and international organizations to authorities regarding her protection, and orders issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Even now, her murder remains unaccounted for.

LRWC calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the threats and intimidation against Mr. Arronte, for the results obtained to be made public, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. LRWC also calls upon the government of Mexico to take swift and effective action to ensure the security of all human rights defenders so they can continue to carry out their legitimate and important work defending human rights.

Failure to protect and investigate violations of the rights of Ernesto Ledesma Arronte and other human rights workers constitutes an egregious breach of Mexico’s duties under binding international laws and principles including those set out in the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Mexico is a signatory and other UN declarations including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mexico’s duties to guarantee the physical safety of these people and to investigate and punish violations also arise from membership in the Organization of American States (OAS) and the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Mexico is taking to:

  • ensure the present and future safety of Ernesto Ledesma Arronte and;
  • investigate the death threats against these human rights defenders with the goal of identifying the person(s) responsible and bringing them to trial.
  • LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.