June 6, 2018

On January 7, 2018, after a violent incident in the community La Concepción (Guerrero) that caused the death of eight people, a security operative took place where three people lost their lives and at least 25 were detained, the majority of whom are members of the Ejidos and Communities Council Opposed to La Parota Dam (CECOP). The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico obtained important evidence that human rights violations were committed during the detention, including torture, a lack of respect for the right to defense, fabrication of evidence, and break-ins without judicial orders. In addition, various journalists claimed to have been hit and harassed to stop filming during the operation. Given these incidents, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, accompanied by PBI, took on the legal representation of those detained and emitted information about the irregularities that accompanied the investigation as well as the precarious detention conditions and solitary confinement of the community leader Marco Antonio Suástegui.

These violent incidents provoked public pronouncements from the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders and the Center for the Right to Justice and International Law (CEJIL) showing serious concern for the arbitrary detentions and the excessive use of force by the police and military in a context of criminalization of those who oppose the building of the La Parota dam. Since 2003, when the process of revindication of the rights of the communities affected by the hydroelectric project begun, three members of CECOP have been killed and another six have been incarcerated. Among them, Marco Antonio Suátegui Muñoz was arbitrarily detained in a high security prison on 17th June 2014 for the crime of theft, and freed on 21st August 2015, given there was no proof upon which to accuse him.

In follow up to this emblematic case of CECOP, the German Coordination for Human Rights in Mexico traveled to Guerrero and visited those detained in the prison. They were able to verify the precarious detention conditions and restrictions that negatively affect their right to health. One month after the visit, the executive judge ordered the Center for Social Reinsertion Las Cruces to ensure dignified conditions for the 25 members of CECOP who remain deprived of their freedom. According to Tlachinollan, this type of resolution emitted in relation to specific cases contributes to infrastructural improvements and respect for human rights within the prison system.

In Europe the criminalization of the 25 members of CECOP was approached by the Delegate Seán Crowe through a parliamentary question aimed at the Foreign Relations and Business Ministry that replied saying that they are following up on the case through the embassy in Mexico and through the various dialogue mechanisms between the European Union and Mexico.

The situation for people defending land, territory, and the environment continues to be seriously concerning and is getting worse in the context of electoral violence that affects the entire population. The actions of recognition are important preventative protection measures that PBI has requested from the Mexican governmental authorities. With this in mind, we welcome the public recognition of people that defend economic, social, and cultural rights from the Governmental Board of the Federal Protection Mechanism and the call to guarantee that the penal system is not used to criminalize indigenous populations who legitimately defend their rights. As recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Michel Forst, these actions should be implemented by federal entities in coordination with state entities and backed up by all of the institutions involved in the protection of human rights defenders.

Through international accompaniment, PBI analyses the situation for human rights defenders in Guerrero and visits the state in order to physically accompany Tlachinollan and meet with governmental authorities and civil society.

From PBI Mexico