Wrongful detention of human rights defender Raúl Hernández

Re: Wrongful detention of human rights defender Raúl Hernández

To: Minister Fernando Francisco Gómez Mont Urueta & Attorney General Eduardo Murueta Urrutia

From: Cara Gibbons

Date: 2010-04-29

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada marks with concern the two-year anniversary of the wrongful detention of Mexican indigenous human rights defender Raúl Hernández.

Raúl Hernández is a member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organisation (OPIM ) which promotes the human rights of the Me’phaa people in Guerrero state in Mexico. Many members of OPIM and other indigenous human rights defenders in the area have been subjected to harassment, violence and intimidation as a result of their human rights activities. Raúl Hernández has been in detention since April 17, 2008 when he and four other OPIM members were arrested at a military checkpoint in Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero for a murder that was alleged to have taken place on January 1, 2008. Arrest warrants were also issued for ten other OPIM members, but they have not been arrested. Those men live in constant fear of arrest and have no recourse against the Mexican state.

Upon review of the case in October 2008, a federal judge ordered the 4 other men released because of a complete lack of evidence against them. They were not immediately released, however, as the Federal Attorney General (who had previously not been involved in the case as it came under the State of Guerrerro’s criminal jurisdiction) inexplictably decided to appeal the case. They were unsucessful and the men were finally released in March 2009. Although Mexican authorities have not arrested the ten other OPIM members against whom they have warrants, this has not prevented them from proceeding with Raúl Hernández’s criminal trial. Raúl Hernández is represented by lawyers (who have also been targeted for threats) and his case is in its final stages.

LRWC’s Mexico Monitor, Cara Gibbons, visited Raúl Hernández in prison in Ayutla de los Libres and met with local authorities and human rights defenders in December 2009. From those meetings, and on the basis of a thorough review of the issues in the case, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada believes that the case against Raúl Hernández was brought in retaliation for his legitimate activities promoting human rights in his community and exposing human rights abuses committed by local authorities. Raúl Hernández’s case is but one example of the widespread problem of harassment of human rights defenders in Mexico and the failure of the Mexican state to insure the perpetrators of this harassment are brought to justice.

LRWC respectfully urges your government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional pacts and covenants ratified by Mexico, and to ensure the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1998, in particular article 1 which provides that “every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international levels.”

LRWC calls on the Mexican authorities to authorities to immediately release Raúl Hernández and take measures to ensure that, Raúl Hernández, his family and all members of OPIM receive adequate protection measures. The measures taken must be sufficient to guarantee effective protection so that Raúl Hernández and other human rights defenders can continue to carry out their legitimate activities without obstacles or fear of reprisals.