Leonel Rivero Rodriguez

Re: Leonel Rivero Rodriguez

To: Lic. Bernardo Bátiz Vázquez, Procurador General de Justicia del D. F.

From: Gail Davidson

Date: 2003-03-12

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is a committee of Canadian lawyers that provides support internationally to lawyers in danger and promotes the enforcement of international human rights standards protecting the duty and right of lawyers to uphold the rule of law.

LRWC believes the legal work of Leonel Rivero Rodriguez has placed him and his family in danger. LRWC is therefore writing to inquire:
1. what measures have been taken since February 18 2003 to guarantee the safety and independence of lawyer Rodriguez and the safety of his family, and;
2. what is being done to investigate threats to Mr. Rodriguez and his family and to determine responsibility through prosecution and trials.
LRWC is alarmed that Leonel Rivero Rodriguez, who is involved in politically sensitive cases, and his family have been subjected to serious threats for over 2 years. We are mindful that renowned human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa might still be alive today had attacks and threats against her been effectively investigated and had the perpetrators been properly tried and punished.

Mexico has a responsibility to effectively investigate human rights violations and to identify perpetrators through prosecution and trial. This oft confirmed duty has been articulated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in many cases including in Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua, “The Court has also reiterated that the right of every person to a simple and rapid remedy…is one of the basic mainstays, not only of the American Convention, but also of the Rule of Law in a democratic society, in the sense set forth in the Convention.”

This duty includes a duty “to conduct genuine and effective investigations to determine the persons responsible for the human rights violations” (Paniagua Morales et al case, March 8 1998) Accordingly, “the absence of an effective remedy to violations of the rights recognized by the Convention is itself a violation of the Convention by the State Party in which the remedy is lacking.” (Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion OC-9/87)

Mexico’s duty to protect Leonel Rivero Rodriguez’ safety and independence as an advocate both by providing adequate protection and by conducting effective investigations and punishment of violations arises both from Mexico’s membership in the Organization of America States and the United Nations. Some binding United Nations law imposing these twin duties to protect rights and investigate and punish violations are found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Failure to adequately protect the safety and independence of Leonel Rivero Rodriguez and other lawyers engaged in human rights advocacy deprives those who depend on Leonel Rivero Rodriguez from access to remedies for rights violations and therefore substantially undermines human rights enforcement in Mexico. Your government’s ability and willingness to safeguard the advocacy rights of Leonel Rivero Rodriguez is critical to the general enforcement of human rights in Mexico.

We trust that you share the concerns of LRWC. We understand from President Fox’s statements that the implementation and enforcement of human rights are a priority in Mexico. We also applaud Mexico’s actions to enforce, through the International Court of Justice, the rights of Mexican nationals on death row in the United States.

We look forward to receiving a reply from you outlining what has been done to:
1. protect Mr. Rodriguez and his family from harm, and;
2. investigate the threats against Leonel Rivero Rodriguez and his family.
We thank you, in advance for you reply to our concerns.