Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas
February 7, 2011
Arbitrary Deprivation of Liberty of ejidatarios in Chiapas
State government has detained 10 ejidatarios, adherents to the Other Campaign from San Sebastián Bachajón .
On 3rd February 117 ejidatarios, indigenous Tzeltales from San Sebastián Bachajón, municipality of Chilon, Chiapas, were arbitrarily detained; the detainees, adherents to the Other Campaign (hereafter OC), said that among the irregularities in the legal process they did not have legal counsel or a qualified interpreter, they were also threatened by state police and and harassed by prosecutors.
According to information in the hands of the Human Rights Centre, the arrest of the ejidatarios occurred while they were attending a meeting above the entrance to the waterfalls of Agua Azul, in order to agree the response they would give the state government concerning their offer to start a dialogue between the parties; this was when the state police made the mass arrests, pursuing those who sought refuge in the homes of locals.
The next day, February 4, the interrogation and the collection of evidence began, they were made to take the sodium rhodizonate test (gunshot residue) and were forced to give urine samples for toxicology testing; during this whole process they reported that they were at no time assisted by a lawyer, nor helped by interpreters qualified in their language and culture. Their statements say that during the taking of their statements, they received threats from the state police and harassment from the civil servants responsible for the administration of justice.
According to records obtained, at approximately 02:00 hours on the 5th of February, the Attorney General of the State of Chiapas released 107 of the ejidatarios and later, at 20:00 hours on the same day, 10 people, including a minor, were sent to the Criminal Court at Playas de Catazajá and transferred to the National Centre for Social Reinsertion of the Sentenced, No. 17 (CERSS No. 17) in the municipality of Playas de Catazajá, Chiapas, on charges of qualified homicide, attempted murder, breach of the peace and attacks on the physical integrity and heritage of the State, under the criminal case No. 39/2011.
The ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, adherents of the OC, who are still being held are:
Demeza Mariano Silvano (minor, 17 years old)
Alvaro Domingo Pérez (part of the Comisión de promoción)
Pedro Hernández López (secretary of the ejidal commission)
Miguel Lopez Deara (deputy of the ejidal council)
Domingo García Gómez (member of the Rights Defence Committee)
Juan Aguilar Guzman (chief treasurer)
Pedro García Álvaro (mentally handicapped)
Jerónimo Méndez Guzmán (ejidatario)
Pedro López Gómez (ejidatario)
On the 6th February, the Chiapas state government publicly announced the start of a dialogue between the parties; however, the ejidatarios, adherents of the OC, did not attend because the proposal did not respect the fact that that there already was a process of dialogue in place, aimed at reaching an agreement within the community; they also indicated that they had been violently assaulted and evicted from the toll booth (for the Agua Azul waterfalls) by the group of ‘official ejidatarios’; that the state government holds 10 ejidatarios in prison and the police force now occupies the territory held that historically belong to them (the ejidatarios).
Given these facts, the Human Rights Centre believes that their right to personal integrity, right to the presumption of innocence, right to due process, judicial guarantees and judicial protection have all been violated.
We urge the national and international community to demand:
– the guarantee of the human rights of the detainees, particularly the rights to the presumption of innocence, to a fair trial and to judicial protection and respect for due process.
We ask groups, organizations and individuals to engage in acts of solidarity in support of the detainees and of respect for the territory of indigenous peoples.
A protest letter can be sent to the Mexican authorities by following this link:
Please also cut and paste, and sign and send the protest letter below to the Mexican Ambassador in London:
Subject: Release the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón
Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora
The recent arrest of common landholders (ejidatarios) from San Sebastián Bachajón, Chiapas along with the threats and harassment that they received from the state police and prosecutors, as documented by the Human Rights Centre Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, shows once again that the Mexican Government is prepared to use State force in order to implement its development projects.
It is undeniable that what is at stake is the transformation of Agua Azul into a high revenue tourist complex that will economically benefit those in power and some private investors. However, in order to achieve this, the ejidatarios of Bachajón, who are defending their land and their territory, are in the way.
Oblivious to the reports and news wires that portray Mexico as a country devastated by a Drug War (“2010 was the bloodiest year so far, with 15,273 drug-related murders” according to the BBC News Website), the Mexican Government still wants to go ahead with projects that will promote the country as a tourist paradise, even if this means the implementation of policies that violate human rights or the use of violence in order to placate social discontent.
European tourists visiting the area will have to know that their sightseeing has been constructed through dispossession, harassment and intimidation. Futhermore, a modern democracy cannot afford to have political prisoners and the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón can certainly be called so.
We will be following this case closely, and we expect the Mexican Government to guarantee that the Human Rights of the detainees are respected as well as their immediate release.