Mexican Indigenous Rights Activists Face New Threats to Their Security

Raul HernandezOnly a few days ago we were happy to share the wonderful news that Raúl Hernández, an indigenous rights leader and prisoner of conscience, had been released from prison after two years of struggle. Unfortunately, Hernández and other indigenous rights activists have been suffering serious threats and harrassment for more than a week.

The daughter of Inés Fernández, a fellow member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (Organización del Pueblo Indigena Me’phaa, OPIM), was threatened by two men on August 28th. The men threatened her family with death and mentioned Raúl Hernández, suggesting a connection between his release and their threats. Two days later, Álvaro Ramírez Concepcíon, coordinator of the Organization of the Future of the Mixteco Indigenous People (Organización para el Futuro del Pueblo Mixteco, OFPM), was shot and seriously wounded by a group of men while he worked on a plot of land near Juquila, in Ayutala municipality in Mexico. His wounds have required him to continue to stay in the hospital under medical supervision. The attackers have not been identified, nor brought to justice.  Other activists from both OPIM and OFPM have been threatened as well.

This intimidation for the purpose of quieting the calls for indigenous rights cannot stand! Learn more and take action on behalf of Hernández, Fernández, Concepcíon and the other activists of OPIM and OFPM. For more information on the history of the human rights abuses against Hernández and his colleagues, check out our previous blog posts.

Claire Lesikar, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.

UPDATE: Raúl Hernández Will be Prosecuted

Last week, we asked you to take action for inidgenous human rights defender Raúl Hernández. Many thanks to all who took action! Unfortunately, at his hearing on Friday, the State Attorney General’s Office of Guerrero upheld murder charges against Raúl, despite unreliable and fabricated evidence. The judge presiding over the case is expected to decide on his innocence or guilt within days.

After the judge’s decision, we will be providing an update and requesting further action. Meanwhile, you can continue to push for justice for Raúl, and you can read the press release about Friday’s hearing.

One Final Push to Protect Raúl Hernández from Unfair Murder Charges!

Raul HernandezA decision will soon be reached regarding unsubstantiated murder charges against human rights defender Raúl Hernández. His final hearing was today, Friday, August 6, and we expect that the court will make a final decision on his case within two weeks of the hearing. Please take action now to ensure that he is not wrongfully convicted of murder!

Raúl, a member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (OPIM) in Guerrero State, Mexico, was arrested along with several other OPIM members in April of 2008 and accused of murdering Alejandro Feliciano García. Amnesty International believes that their arrests were prompted by their human rights work in defense of the Me’phaa Indigenous Peoples. The original charges against Raúl were based on questionable eyewitness accounts, and evidence presented in his defense was disregarded.  Fortunately, on June 30 of this year, the judge presiding over his case decided that the evidence against him was unreliable and requested that the Guerrero State Attorney General issue a recommendation on the case.

Amnesty International has been advocating on behalf of Raúl since 2008, and we believe that right now is a strategic time to make a final push for his freedom. We have a great opportunity to contact the Attorney General and pressure him to recommend that charges against Raúl are dropped.  He has the power to influence the outcome of the case, and therefore to protect Raúl from spending the rest of his life in prison. Please take action on behalf of Raúl today!

Raúl Hernández: In Jail for Defending the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Raúl Hernández, a member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (OPIM), has been detained for over two years for a crime Amnesty International believes he did not commit.  He and four other OPIM members were arrested on April 17, 2008 and charged with the murder of Alejandro Feliciano García on January 1, 2008 in the village of El Camalote, Guerrero State, in Mexico.  The other four OPIM members were released in March of this year, but Hernández remains detained as the sole suspect for the murder of García.

The next few weeks will be a vital time for Hernández as the State Attorney General’s Office will have the opportunity to recommend that the case against him is dropped.  We are asking members and activists to join us now in pressuring the State Attorney General’s Office to ensure that the charges against Hernández are dropped and that he is released immediately from detention.

The original charges against Hernández were based on questionable eyewitness evidence that appeared to be manufactured.  Efforts by the defense attorney to question the reliability of this evidence were not taken into account during the initial stages of the case.  He was actually denied an injunction because of two suspicious eyewitness accounts implicating him in the murder despite other testimonies that he was not present at the time of the crime.  Only recently—on June 30 of this year—did a federal review judge decide that the evidence against Hernández was unreliable. This judge closed the evidence submission stage of the case, and the court has asked the State Attorney General’s Office for a recommendation on what should be done with the case, so now the power to decide what happens to Hernández is in the hands of the State Attorney General’s Office.

Amnesty International believes that authorities called for the arrest of Hernández and other OPIM members to stem their human rights work on behalf of the Me’phaa indigenous communities.  It appears that the murder charges against Hernández were brought in reprisal for his legitimate activities promoting the rights of their community and exposing abuses by a local political boss (cacique) and local authorities.  This is not surprising given the repeated harassment members of OPIM have faced from local authorities.  They report being threatened, intimidated, attacked, and even murdered for their work.

Join us now to support Hernández and his work to defend the rights of the Me’phaa indigenous communities! The State Attorney General’s Office will be making their recommendation for Hernández’s case within the next few weeks, so we need to remind them now that we expect them to pursue justice by recommending that Hernández is released and that those who misused the judicial system to imprison him wrongfully are prosecuted.

You can also send a quick message of encouragement and solidarity to Raúl.

Anna Westlund, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.