Mexico: Human Rights Defender Raúl Hernández Released, But Threats Continue

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Persistence, local organizing, effective advocacy and international pressure have ultimately won out in bringing justice to Raúl Hernández Abundio, an indigenous rights defender from Guerrero, Mexico who was targeted by authorities and unjustly imprisoned. Since we wrote about his case in July, international and local human rights groups have been working tirelessly to clear his name of the murder charges for his exposure of abuses committed by soldiers and local authorities.

Just last week, their work paid off. After over 2 years in prison, Mr. Hernández walked free. The judge overseeing Mr. Hernández’s case ordered his immediate and unconditional release, adding that Mr. Hernández is neither “guilty nor judicially responsible” for the crime of which he was accused.  Mr. Hernández said that he felt “happy, now that they have given me my freedom.” But that happiness was fleeting. Just days after his release, Mr. Hernández himself, as well as fellow human rights defenders and families from the Organization for the Future of the Mixteco People (OFPM) and its sister organization, Organization for the Me’phaa Indigenous Peoples Organization (OPIM), have  been the subjects of death threats and violent attacks, including the brutal beating of OFPM leader Álvaro Ramírez Concepción.

Still, Mr. Hernández has vowed to continue the brave and important work he was doing before the baseless prosecution. “We will continue to work to develop infrastructure, schools, medical clinics,” he promised. “We will continue to struggle, and I will continue to work.”

We at the LAWG, like many of you, have long been concerned with the case of Mr. Hernández and celebrated the small victory for advocacy that his release represented. Not only was his imprisonment the result of fabricated evidence and a dysfunctional legal system, but emblematic of a broader pattern of attacks against human rights defenders in Guerrero and throughout Mexico.  But as the events of the last couple days have shown, the struggle for respect for human rights in Mexico is far from over.

As the U.S. State Department prepares to release its report on the Mexican government’s human rights record, it’s important that they hear about cases like that of Raúl Hernández, which is much more of the rule than the exception.