Chiapas: Announcement of International Accompaniment for the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center on the part of the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ)

December 10, 2010

San Cristóbal de Las Casas
December 6, 2010

To the members of the SIPAZ international coalition
To national and international human rights organizations
To the national and international press
To the public

Announcement of International Accompaniment for the
Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre
on the part of the International Service for Peace

The International Service for Peace (SIPAZ), an international NGO that with nearly 15 years of experience working for peace in Chiapas, is announcing the commencement of physical accompaniment of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (CDHFBC) due to recent death threats the organization has received and the more general risk present in their work.

Facts

In San Cristóbal de las Casas on November 24, 2010, Margarita Martínez Martínez was harassed and threatened with death by to unidentified men. In an Urgent Action made public on November 26, 2010, SIPAZ denounced these events expressing their strong concern for the life, security and physical integrity of Margarita Martínez and her family. Her agressors also used Margarita Martínez as an intermediary in delivering death threats (both written and oral) to the CDHFBC team.

One of the men gave her a piece of paper told her the following: “you will take this to Frayba and you will tell Diegao [Diego Cardenas, the CDHFBC director] that we know that they work with subversive groups and that we have identified the Frayba staff and we are going to finish them off one by one because they are fucking assholes that just go around destabilizing the State. They even justify their actions by saying they work in favor of those most in need, in favor of justice. What justice? Justice my ass.” A fearful Margarita Martínez followed her aggressors’ instructions to drive through the city in a taxi until she was able to lose them in the José Castillo Tielemans market. She then went to the CDHFBC and handed over the piece of paper given to her with a message spelled out in letters cut out of a newspaper that read: “Diego, the life of this family is in your hands. You will face charges. Fucking [human rights] defenders.”

Context

SIPAZ recognizes that the current sociopolitical context in Chiapas presents a high level of risk for human rights defenders due to the growing criminialization of their work since 2009 as well as the prevalence of impunity in cases of harassment and aggression against them.

Antecedents

It is important to remember that the death threats that the CDHFBC received on November 24 were not part of an isolated incident. They are just the latest in a series of harassments against this Centre and the State’s reaction to these events has proven to be insufficient. Since mid-2009, the CDHFBC team has been victim to slanderous media campaigns, acts of defamation, surveillance, harassment, threats and even physical aggression against one of its members.

SIPAZ Accompaniment

The mission at the International Service for Peace is to accompany and protect the work of local actors in favor of peace and human rights to promote the development of positive peace in Chiapas. We at SIPAZ value the work done at the CDHFBC in defense of human rights and the rights of the people and we reiterate our strong concern for the lives and both physical and psychological integrity of their members.

As such, in addition to the urgent action we at SIPAZ published on November 26, 2010, distribution of information on the case and advocacy meetings with officials at the national and international levels, we have decided to accompany the CDHFBC through daily visits to their offices for a period to be decided on based on the need and responses to such accompaniment from both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Mexican State.

It is important to remember that the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders states the following: “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with other, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights…”

We ask that the members of the SIPAZ international coalition, both national and international human rights organizations, the national and international press, and the general public remain alert to possible incidents in the future with regard to the CDHFBC team and their safety in addition to requesting measures be put in place to protect the work, lives, security, physical and psychological integrity as well as the families of all of the Centre’s members.

Sincerely,

The International Service for Peace (SIPAZ)

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