Mexico: Human Rights Defenders Threatened After Highlighting Police Involvement in Murder

An anonymous caller rang the CEFPRODHAC offices in Reynosa and said: 'Shut your mouths, now,' one day after the organisation's president Arturo Solis appeared in regional newspapers calling for a full investigation into police involvement in the abduction and murder of José Antonio Cervantes Espeleta. Police officers investigating the case in the victim's home state of Nuevo Leon have told the media that they too have received threats.

José Antonio Cervantes Espeleta went missing in the city or Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, on 13 December 2003. The police investigation was reportedly inconsistent and inadequate, repeatedly assuring the family and the media that Cervantes Ezpeleta had chosen to absent himself and was alive and well, despite strong evidence to the contrary. José Antonio Cervantes Espeleta's body was discovered on 26 December 2003.

On 4 January 2004 Tamaulipas State Public Prosecutor announced that four people had been detained in connection with the case, including active and former members of the state police. The key suspect, an active state judicial police officer, is reportedly on the run. However, in the light of the flawed investigation and reported attempts to downplay the crime and possible involvement of officials, CEFPRODHAC continues to call for a full investigation to bring to justice all those responsible for the abduction and murder.

In 2003 CEFPRODHAC reported 145 cases of kidnappings and abductions in the north of Tamaulipas State. The organisation has campaigned for a full investigation of these crimes, particularly into the evidence of involvement of police officers and official protection of those responsible.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Shadowy figures issuing threats must not be allowed to intimidate those who are working to defend human rights. Our members are calling on the Mexican authorities to take immediate action.

'People committed to justice the world over must stand up and defend it when it is under threat.'

Amnesty International has issued an alert to its members, calling on them to appeal to the Mexican state authorities for a full investigation into the threats and the murder of José Antonio Cervantes Espeleta.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Human rights defenders throughout Mexico face threats and harassment in response to their legitimate activities of protecting and promoting human rights. Those attempting to expose the involvement of state agents in human rights violations and failure of the state to effectively investigate abuses are particularly exposed to intimidation at state level, where judicial police reportedly carry out many human rights violations with impunity. CEFPRODHAC has in the past been subject to threats, harassment and slander litigation by public officials in response to their human rights work. Abductions and kidnappings are common in several Mexican states. In various states, through the efforts of human rights organisations supporting the families of the victims, the involvement of local police in these crimes has been exposed.

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