Felipe Arreaga Sanchez—Farmer and Environmentalist

Re: Felipe Arreaga Sanchez—Farmer and Environmentalist
Celsa Valdovinos and others

To: Lic. Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo, Gobernador Electo del Estado de Guerrero

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, Mexico Monitor

Date: 2005-09-21

In April and June 2005, I wrote to Governor Elect Torreblanca Galindo and certain other officials expressing concern about the situation of Mr. Felipe Arreaga, his spouse Celsa Valdovinos, and members of OCESP.

LRWC is delighted to learn that, on September 15, 2005, Mr. Arreaga was finally acquitted of the murder of Abel Bautista and released from custody after 10 months in prison in Zihuatanejo. As canvassed in previous correspondence, LRWC has always had grave concerns about the validity of the prosecution against Mr. Arreaga. The evidence in the case drove us to the conclusion that the prosecution was malicious and carried out for collateral reasons, rather than in the interests of justice.

Despite Mr. Arreaga’s acquittal, LRWC remains concerned about the safety of Mr. Arreaga and other environmental activists, including members of OCESP. LRWC understands that during Mr. Arreaga’s trial, one of the individuals responsible for Mr. Arreaga’s prosecution threatened reprisals against Mr. Arreaga and his family in the event of an acquittal. Moreover, we understand that arrest warrants for 13 other environmental activists named as suspects in the Bautista murder remain in force. Finally, we are not aware of any progress in the investigation of the brutal May 19, 2005 attack against environmentalist Albertano Peñalosa Domínguez and his sons Armando, Adatuel, Adalí and Isaac.

Given the reprisals threatened against Mr. Arreaga and his family, and given the vulnerability of environmentalists in the Petetlan region to attack, LRWC urges you to take immediate and concrete steps to protect Mr. Arreaga, Ms. Valdovinos and other environmentalists.

Further, we call upon you to:

  • conduct an investigation into the wrongful prosecution of Mr. Arreaga;
  • ensure that Mr. Arreaga receives proper compensation for his false imprisonment of 10 months; and
  • rescind the 13 arrest warrants against former leaders and members of OCESP.

Finally, we repeat the call for an independent and impartial investigation into the brutal attack against Mr. Peñalosa and his sons. In our respectful view, public officials have a duty to prevent a culture of impunity from developing in relation to attacks against environmentalists in Guerrero.

LRWC respectfully reminds the addressees that national and international law places twin duties on Mexican governmental actors to (1) ensure the safety and independence of human rights defenders (among whose ranks we count the persons noted in this letter), and (2) to investigate suspected human rights violations and provide effective remedies where those violations are proven. These duties flow from Mexico’s treaty obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other instruments.

LRWC is mindful that Article 133 of the Mexican Constitution provides that international treaties ratified by Mexico prevail as the supreme law of the country.

LRWC also draws to your attention the expectations for treatment of human rights defenders articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1998) (the “Declaration”). The Declaration expresses the international community’s consensus that human rights defenders have a right to carry out their activities without restriction or fear of reprisal. We urge you to act in accordance with the values expressed in the Declaration.

In conclusion, kindly advise LRWC of the steps that you are taking in response to the matters raised in this letter. Your early written response is appreciated.