In their work to promote and defend indigenous peoples’ rights in the Costa Chica region of Mexico, a highly militarized zone in the state of Guerrero, members of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (OPIM) and their partner organizations have had to overcome repeated harassment, threats, and even murders of leading members. Now add imprisonments and baseless prosecutions by the government to that list.
In April 2008, Raúl Hernández and four fellow OPIM members were arbitrarily arrested and charged with the murder of a suspected army informant—a murder which Mr. Hernández did not commit. The other four human rights defenders were released due to lack of evidence. But even though the only witness that directly identified Mr. Hernández as having taken part in the murder was found to have lied, he has remained in prison for over two years.
With each day that passes, it becomes increasingly clear that Mr. Hernández’s imprisonment is the result of fabricated evidence and a dysfunctional legal system, as well as part of a broader pattern of attacks against human rights defenders in Guerrero and throughout Mexico. On June 30, 2010, the judge presiding over Mr. Hernández’s case moved the trial forward and is now expected to issue a verdict within the next few weeks. In anticipation of this pivotal moment, LAWGEF and WOLA sent a letter to the state Attorney General last week calling for Mr. Hernández’s immediate release and urging a full investigation into the lack of due process in his case. Read it here (in Spanish). Then, click here to send a personal fax to Mexican authorities urging them to free him now.
As long as authorities in Mexico continue to target human rights defenders like Mr. Hernández—whose only “offense” was defending the rights of the community and exposing abuses by local authorities—rule of law in Mexico will remain elusive.