Amnesty International releases report on criminalization of human rights defenders in Mexico News
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Amnesty International releases report on criminalization of human rights defenders in Mexico

Amnesty International released an alerting report on Tuesday, highlighting the arbitrary use of the Mexican criminal justice system to criminalize women human rights defenders.

The report titled “Perseguidas: Criminalización de mujeres defensoras de derechos humanos en México” (Persecuted: criminalization of women human rights defenders in Mexico) focuses on the cases of three women: Ana Lorena Delgadillo, a Mexican human rights lawyer working on women’s and migrant’s rights as well as disappearances and femicides, Marcela Turati Muñoz, a Mexican investigative journalist covering human rights and social issues, including drug violence and its victims, and Mercedes Doretti, an Argentinian forensic expert who has been investigating human rights violations internationally, notably in Mexico.

In 2016 the three women were unlawfully investigated and surveilled by the Specialized Sub-Attorney General’s Office for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO), the organized crime division of Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General, now known as FEMDO, the specialized prosecutor’s office for organized crime. This state-sanctioned investigation aimed to uncover alleged offenses related to organized crime and kidnapping. According to Amnesty it is not clear whether the investigation has concluded or is still active.

According to the report the surveillance dates back to the San Fernando Massacres of 2010 and 2011, which the women were researching and working on in their respective professions. In 2010, the Los Zetas drug cartel murdered 72 migrants of various nationalities in northeastern Mexico. The following year, the cartel was found responsible for the mass killing of 193 people, who were buried in 47 clandestine graves.

In its report Amnesty alleges violations of several fundamental human rights, including the right to privacy, freedom of expression, defense of human rights, the right to non-discrimination, and due process. Furthermore, the criminalization of all three women has severely impacted their physical, psychological, and professional well-being and have not received compensation for the suffered consequences of the unlawful investigation.

Executive Director of Amnesty International Mexico Edith Olivares Ferreto emphasized the NGO’s concern about serious human rights violations perpetrated by the Mexican criminal justice system. These violations have left the three women with little defense and no basic standards of due process guaranteed: 

In this context, the case of Ana Lorena, Marcela and Mercedes is emblematic of how the Mexican state makes arbitrary use of the criminal justice system to persecute, intimidate and criminalize human rights defenders. With this type of persecution, the Mexican authorities are instilling fear not only in these three women defenders, but also in other human rights defenders who have every right to contribute through their work to the protection of human rights. It is inconceivable that anyone should be criminally prosecuted as a result of these efforts. The three levels of government have an obligation to ensure that human rights are upheld and not to deepen impunity.

The NGO’s report and statement highlight how Mexico’s actions against human rights defenders can lead to unjust criminal charges and intimidation. Amnesty therefore recommends the Public Prosecutor’s Office to stop prosecution and surveillance of all three women, erase their personal data, investigate those responsible and offer reparations and a public apology.