Samuel Alfonso Castellanos Piñón and Beatriz Casas Arellanes are lawyers working with the Oaxaca regional office of Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura, (ACAT), Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture. In October 2002 the two lawyers officially took over the defence of individuals accused of committing the May 2002 Agua Fria killings in which 26 indigenous people were gunned down. Testimony from the accused individuals alleged that their confessions to state authorities were extracted using torture. Since taking over the case, 16 of the accused have been released on bail. On February 24, 2003 the remained 10 accused were granted an appeal in on their case. The same day Piñón made a statement to members of the press highlighting the irregularities and abuse in the case and called for the release of the remaining accused. [AMR 41/009/2003]

On March 1, 2003 the two lawyers received an anonymous death threat at their ACAT office. The letter warned that if Piñón did not stop working on the Agua Fria defence that he would be killed. The letter also contained insults and threats aimed at Arellanes and other members of the ACAT offices. That evening, after leaving his office, Piñón was openly followed by an unknown man. As he proceeded he noticed two addition men following him. All three men indicated that they were carrying arms beneath their clothing. [Ibid]

On March 31, 2003 another death threat was delivered to the ACAT offices. The letter suggested that whoever had written it was knowledgeable about the daily routines of those involved with the cases. The threat restated that if they did not stop working on the case that Piñón would be killed and others would be harmed. [AMR 41/017/2003]

On April 28, 2003 an anonymous letter was again delivered to the ACAT offices. This time the letter makes reference to the habitual movements of the threatened people, mentioning that those who are being threatened are watched in the courts as well as their offices and where they farm. [ñón%2B%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8 ] The letter stated that if the defendants go free that the lives of their lawyers would be in jeopardy. The letter included license plate numbers of vehicles used by the defence staff. []

The threats have been reported to the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado (State Public Prosecutor’s Office), and the Comision Estatal de Derechos Humanos (State Human Rights Commission) and are believed to be an attempt to obstruct the work of the defence team. [AMR 41/009/2003] Despite the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights requesting the protection of those involved in the case, the authorities have apparently not carried out an extensive investigation of the case nor have they publicly condemned the threats against human right defenders in the region. According to information received, on one occasion a municipal police officer was seen patrolling the area surrounding the ACAT office, but that seems to be the only measure taken. The Comision Estatal de Derechos Humanos has requested that the State Public Prosecutor’s Office take measures to ensure the security of the defence team, but has not formulated an official recommendation on the case. []


Letter written April 5, 2003 Letter written March 9, 2003 Letter written June 26, 2003 Letter written September 7 2003


Ricardo Sepulveda, Director of Human Rights with the Mexican Government, has responded to both letters sent by LRWC. He has pledged to look into the matter and has requested information relating to the case from the Secretary of Government of Oaxaca, the Oaxaca General Prosecutor’s Office of Justice and the State Committee of Human Rights in Oaxaca. No further specifics as to the progress or outcomes of this investigation have been given in spite of LRWC requests.