Nov 10, 2011

Death Threat to Human Rights Group Underscores Mexico's Climate of Fear

Last weekend I joined some fifty women human rights defenders in Mexico to discuss the emergency situation facing us in our work and our communities, how to care for ourselves and each other, and ways to form more effective linkages.

Just days after returning from La Trinidad, Tlaxcala, where the meeting took place, we received the news that Elga Aguilar Gutiérrez--a human rights defender who participated in the name of the Mexico City-based Cerezo Committee--received a death threat, along with other members of the Committee.

Whoever wrote the threat included a menacing reference to Elga's son, Camilo, as "the one who doesn't know how to write". Camilo turned two years old the day the letter arrived.

The Cerezo Committee plays a key role in the defense of human rights in Mexico and legal reforms to create effective protection mechanisms, as detailed in the Urgent Action Alert below, translated by the Americas Program. We send Elga and her family and organization our full support. By standing together, we will not allow fear and intimidation to interfere with the vital work that the Cerezo Committee and the women human rights defenders carry out, or permit threats that jeopardize the safety of some of our bravest and most committed citizens.

Readers can add your names to the demands below by clicking on this link, set up by the Mexican human rights coalition "All rights for everyone" (Todos los derechos para todas y todos). It's in Spanish but only asks for your name (nombre) and email.

Death threats against human rights defenders of COMITÉ CEREZO MÉXICO (Cerezo Committee), ACUDDEH (granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission) and their families


On November 8 at 12:38 P.M., a message containing death threats arrived in the electronic mail account, the address of the human rights organization Comité Cerezo México. The following are excerpts from the message: 

[…] It should be made very clear that there will not be a single day, month or year in which we will not be aware of everything, even talking directly with you, which we did with Francisco cerezo the "intelligent one" of which he has none,  […] Hopefully you'll change francisco, we are going to help you change. What do you think?
We know that we won't get an answer, we know that your silence is your "intelligence", but you know francisco and company, that silence also kills.
What's up Alex, how's it going? […] Antonio? We send our greetings to the one who doesn't know how to write...  Héctor? How's the eternal love... Pretty Emiliana, greetings from all of us…
P.S. Whatever, here as always, ready on the spot. In a little while we'll see you in the same place as  always.
We note that in the text of the threat we can identify the meaning of some of the words or phrases, which we explain below, along with the profile of those threatened:

but you know francisco and company”. They refer to Francisco Cerezo Contreras, who is, since August of 2001, a founding member of the organization. Currently he is the coordinator of the Comité Cerezo México. He has been granted precautionary measures MC-246-06 issued October 30, 2006 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). By “company” they refer to the members of the Comité Cerezo México.

What's up Alex, how's it going?". They refer to Alejandro Cerezo Contreras, ex prisoner of conscience, who, after being  imprisoned  from 2001 to 2005, was exonerated of all charges. Alejandro Cerezo has also received precautionary measures from the IACHR  (MC-246-06) and, currently, is the representative of the Civil Association, legally constituted, Acción Urgente para Defensores de los Derechos Humanos AC. and Coordinator of the Protection Desk México (initiative of Protection Internacional).

Alejandro Cerezo Contreras currently is participating actively in the construction of a Federal Mechanism of Protection of Human Rights Defenders and journalists before the executive branch, and has also promoted the General Protection Law for Defenders and Journalists in the Mexican Senate; he is also the author of the proposal on General Guidelines for Recognizing and Attending Measures of protection in favor of Journalists and/or communications professionals, human rights defenders and public servants, in cases in which their safety is at risk in the Federal District (Mexico City). 

“Antonio? We send our greetings to the one who doesn't know how to write...”. They refer to Antonio Cerezo Contreras, ex prisoner of conscience, who from 2001 to 2009 was unjustly imprisoned. Following his release he joined the Comité Cerezo México, where he is currently the coordinator of the international area. With the phrase the “one who doesn't know how to write” they are referring to his son  Camilo Gabriel Cerezo Aguilar, who that day turned 2 years old; it is worth noting that the mother is also an active member of the Committee.

“Héctor? How's the eternal love...”. This referes to Héctor Cerezo Contreras, ex prisoner of conscience, who was unjustly imprisoned from 2001 to 2009. Héctor Cerezo, like Antonio, joined the Comité Cerezo México, dwhere he is currently the coordinator of the area of accompaniment, and the editor of the magazine Revista Revuelta. It should be noted that on March 21, 2011 Héctor and Antonio Cerezo Contreras participated in the meeting with the Working Group on Forced or Involuntary Disappearances of the UN that was held in the offices of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Mexico City; at that meeting they presented part of the Report on forced disappearances in Mexico 2011 that they helped write; this report points out the responsibility of the Mexican government in the increase in forced disappearances in Mexico. 

“pretty Emiliana”. They refer to Emiliana Cerezo Contreras, founding member of the Comité Cerezo México, who also has received precautionary measures from the IACHR, MC-246-06.

It should be noted that the members of the Comité Cerezo have received 13 death threats in the ten years of work of the human rights organization.Three of the those threatened have been granted precautionary measures MC-246-06 issued Oct. 30, 2006 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Three were prisoners of conscience: Alejandro, three and a half years;  Antonio y Héctor, 7 and a half years. The lawyer who handled their case, Digna Ochoa y Placido, was assassinated on Oct. 19, 2001.

This year the Comité Cerezo trained the commissions on documentation of violations of Human Rights of the organizations: Coordinadora Metropolitana Contra la Militarización and El Movimiento de Paz con Justicia y Dignidad  led by the poet Javier Sicilia.

It presented in August, the report The Cost of Repression 2009-2010: a war against the people, which documents the diverse strategies of serious violations of human rights by the Mexico government such as forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, prison for political reasons, and the paramilitarization of Mexico. It has participated in meetings before international organisms, such as the UN Working Group on Forced  or Involuntary Disappearances, during its recent official visit to Mexico in March of 2011, and the meeting held with the Rapporteur for Mexico of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during the work visit to Mexico in Sept. 2011.

The Comité Cerezo México, is currently a member of the National Network of Civil Human Rights Organisms  "Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos"; participates in the national Campaign against Forced Disappearance and in the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples, Mexico chapter, which is a non-governmental international ethical tribunal.
It should be noted that this threat was received 8 days after the assassination of the activist and university thesis student of the Department of Philosophy and Letters of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Carlos Sinuhé Cuevas Mejía, on Oct. 26, 2011.  That assassination, as mentioned by the Comité Cerezo México in its communique on the death, has provoked a climate of fear and confusion that is being used by the Mexican government to launch a series of attacks, threats, and harassment against the social, student and human rights movements, and to generate rumors and lies that encourage aggressions against members of the university community, grassroots organizations and human rights groups. 

Considering the above, the organizations signed on below request that the Mexican government: 

  1. Take immediate appropriate measures to guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity of Alejandro, Héctor, Antonio, Francisco and Emiliana Cerezo Contreras, and the other members of the Comité Cerezo México.
  2. Carry out an immediate, exhaustive and impartial investigation of the threat received, and ask that the results of that investigation are made public and that those found responsible fort these acts are tried in court.
  3. Assure the application of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1998, in particular that which refers to the protection of the right of all persons, individual or collective, to promote and bring about the protection and  exercise of human rights and fundamental liberties on the national and international level (Art.1) and "guarantee protection [...] of all persons, individual or collective, from violence, threats, reprisals, discrimination, denial in fact or law, pressure or any other arbitrary action that results from the legitimate exercise of the rights mentioned in the present Declaration"  (Art. 12.2);
  4. Generally, act in accordance with the international Pacts and Conventions on human rights signed and ratified by Mexico. 
To international organisms for the protection of human rights:
Based within the framework of their attributions, express their concern over the seriousness of these acts and call on the Mexican government to comply with the requests made.

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