Luz María Lluvias Flores, Raúl Crespo Casarrubias, Osiris Marlene Avila Arellanes, Bernardo Sánchez Cruz, and other members

Re: Luz María Lluvias Flores, Raúl Crespo Casarrubias, Osiris Marlene Avila Arellanes, Bernardo Sánchez Cruz, and other members of the Centro de Derechos Humanos “José María Morelos y Pavón” (the “Centre”)

To: Lic. Maclovio Ariza Acevedo, President of the Municipality of Chilapa de Alvarez

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier

Date: 2003-11-28

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”), is a committee of Canadian lawyers that promotes the enforcement of human rights standards and the rule of law. We also support human rights defenders around the world.

LRWC is deeply concerned by reports from Amnesty International that lawyers and advocates at the Centre have been subjected to threats and harassment by a municipal official from your town.

In particular:

  • On November 11, 2003, Luz María Lluvias Flores was summoned to appear before the local representative of the Ministerio Público de fuero común, in relation to her representation of three individuals from the colonia Vista Hermosa who were allegedly verbally and physically attacked on November 2, 2003, by a municipal official from Chilapa de Alvarez, his son, and two bodyguards.
  • On November 12, 2003, Ms. Flores attended a meeting at the Public Prosecutor’s Office with two colleagues, Osiris Marelene Avila Arellanes and Raúl Crespo Casarrubias. Reports indicate that the municipal official responsible for the alleged attack on Ms. Flores’s clients was present, along with two bodyguards. The accused official reportedly asked Ms. Flores for her colleagues’ names. After she refused to name them, the municipal official reportedly said, “Si sigues interviniendo en mi contra, ándate con cuidado si es que no quieres tener problemas conmigo.” Further, in the presence of a representative of the Ministerio Público de fuero común, the same municipal official reportedly said, “Si sigues interveniendo en el caso voy a proceder en tu contra armandote un buen delito.”
  • On four occasions since November 11, 2003, the son of the accused municipal official has reportedly been observed watching the Centre’s offices from a vehicle.
  • On November 18, 2003, Bernardo Sánchez, president of the Centre, was reportedly threatened by the same municipal official who allegedly threatened Ms. Flores.
  • On November 19, 2003, an unknown person visited the Centre’s offices and repeatedly asked for the name and home address of the Centre’s coordinator.

LRWC takes this information seriously and believes that the reports are fully credible. An examination of the cases of 11 lawyers and human rights advocates in various Mexican states on whose behalf LRWC and Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales have intervened since October 2001 reveals a disturbing pattern of harassment and violence against advocates. In no case have we been informed of criminal charges being laid against the perpetrators of the intimidation.

LRWC is very concerned about the safety of those working at the Centre, and, in particular, those named at the outset of this letter. We respectfully request that you inform LRWC of what measures you are taking to deal with this situation. Further, we request that you initiate a full and impartial investigation into the allegations made above. We also encourage your active participation in any investigation made by officials of the state government. LRWC believes that it is imperative that the results of any investigation be made public and that those responsible for the wrongful acts be brought to justice. The criminal justice system must not be manipulated to harass and intimidate those who are fulfilling their professional duties as lawyers and carrying out legitimate human rights work.

Mr. Municipal President, national and international law places twin duties on government representatives at all levels in Mexico to (1) ensure the safety and independence of lawyers and human rights defenders, and (2) to investigate suspected human rights violations and provide effective remedies where those violations are proven. 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; . . . (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
  • 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. Government officials within Mexico have a clear and pressing duty to translate this into action at the local level.