Leonel Rivero Rodriguez, Lawyer

Re: Leonel Rivero Rodriguez, Lawyer

To: Mtro. Bernardo Batiz Vazquez, Procurador General del Distrito Federal

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, Mexico monitor, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Date: 2005-04-04

LRWC is deeply concerned about human rights lawyer Leonel Rivero Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez has recently reported receiving threatening telephone calls at his office in Mexico City. LRWC is particularly concerned about these calls because Mr. Rodriguez has received similar threats in the past, as did his late colleague Digna Ochoa. LRWC believes Ms. Ochoa was murdered in relation to her legal work. We are aware that the investigation into her death was recently reopened following an Order of the Second Circuit Court for Penal Matters.

On March 15, 2005, Mr. Rodriguez answered the telephone to hear the caller say, “Te vas a morir.” The voice was that of a young girl.

On March 16, 2005, four voice mails were recorded on Mr. Rodriguez’s line over a period of 8 minutes. The first three messages, which appeared to have been left by the same person who called on March 15th, asked Mr. Rodriguez to dial a particular number. The final message reportedly threatened that Mr. Rodriguez would be killed if he did not dial the number. The caller then allegedly said, “No porque sea una nina no sabre matarte.”

LRWC understands that Mr. Rodriguez has submitted a formal complaint to the Procuraduria General de Justicia del Distrito Federal in relation to the threats.

LRWC also notes that Mr. Rodriguez has been the victim of threats and attempted intimidation in the past. In March 2000, Mr. Rodriguez’s home was broken into. In May 2000, rocks were thrown at the windows of his house. In 2001, following Digna Ochoa’s death, Mr. Rodriguez was assigned bodyguards at the request of the Inter-American Court of Justice. On April 6, 2002, the bodyguards were attacked by three men who took the bodyguards’ guns, handcuffed one of them, and locked the other in the trunk of a car. The attackers reputedly said that they were going to “do him [Rodriguez] in”. On February 18, 2003, a voice mail message was left at Mr. Rodriguez’s office by a caller who was apparently a young boy. The caller said, “Creo que te vamos ir a dar.” LRWC understands that the threat was investigated and the Procuraduria General de Justicia del Distrito Federal concluded that it was a prank.

Given the persistence of the caller in the most recent threats against Mr. Rodriguez, LRWC urges you to strengthen the protection he is currently receiving, in accordance with Mr. Rodriguez’s wishes. LRWC also urges you to promptly begin a full and impartial investigation into the threats of March 15 and 16, 2005. Moreover, we urge you to make the results of the investigation public and to bring those responsible for the death threats to justice.

LRWC respectfully notes that national and international law places duties on Mexico to ensure the safety and independence of lawyers and human rights defenders. This law arises from Mexico’s treaty obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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.

Further, LRWC notes the standards for treatment of lawyers and human rights defenders articulated in such international instruments as 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) and the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990). Articles 16 and 17 of the latter instrument provide:

16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; . . .

17. Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.

The international community, in which Mexico plays a vital role, has clearly articulated the moral duty of all nations to protect lawyers and human rights advocates in fulfilling their professional functions. The Government of Mexico has a clear and pressing duty to translate this into action at the domestic level in Mr. Rodriguez’s case.

Kindly advise LRWC of the steps that México is taking to address Mr. Rodriguez’s situation. Your early written response is appreciated.