México: El defensor indígena Fredy García Ramírez al fin libre


Geneva-París, July 5, 2022 – The release of Fredy García Ramírez, defender of land, territory, and indigenous peoples’ rights — who had been unjustly imprisoned for almost three years — is a cause for celebration, announced the Observatory (OMCT-FIDH). However, the Observatory is concerned for his safety and physical integrity and demands full reparation for the violation of his rights.

On June 23, 2022, Fredy García Ramírez, an Indigenous Zapotec and spokesperson for the Comité de Defensa de los pueblos Indígenas (Committee for the Defence of Indigenous Peoples, CODEDI), was acquitted by a trial judge of the Superior Court of Justice of the State of Oaxaca (TSJEO) and released a day later after 963 days of arbitrary detention. The allegations and charges were fabricated, arbitrary and unfounded, as the court had no evidence corroborating the accusation against him.

On November 6, 2019, Fredy García Ramírez was violently and arbitrarily arrested along with another fellow CODEDI member, Mr. Celerino Gisael Martínez Castro. The 12 men who arrested them were unidentified, heavily armed, and physically assaulted them, pointed a gun at them and did not inform them of the arrest warrant against them. Mr. Martínez Castro was released without charge after eight hours of detention and incommunicado detention, while Mr. García Ramírez continued to be deprived of his liberty. On November 12, 2019, he appeared before the Control Court of Valles Centrales, who remanded him in custody during the trial for the alleged crimes of "assault," "robbery," and "injury." He was subsequently transferred to the Centro Penitenciario Varonil de Tanivet, Tlacolula, Oaxaca, where he remained in detention until June 24, 2022.

Throughout the period of arbitrary detention, Fredy García Ramírez suffered ill-treatment by prison officials, as well as threats and acts of intimidation to restrain him and prevent him from denouncing these events. Moreover, in May 2020, many inmates in Tanivet Prison, including Fredy García Ramírez, had symptoms associated with COVID-19. However, the prison lacked medical staff and a doctor attended to the health needs of inmates just twice per week.

Fredy García Ramírez’s right to due process was seriously violated during his time in arbitrary detention. Hearings were continuously suspended and postponed due to the public health emergency, in breach of international calls to guarantee due process in the context of the pandemic and allocate the necessary resources to carry out hearings and trials.

The Observatory welcomes Fredy García Ramírez’s release; however, it recalls that he should never have been detained in the first place. The Observatory demands that the Mexican government grant the human rights defender full reparation for the damages caused due to the criminalisation, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment to which he was subjected.

The Observatory recalls that this arbitrary detention is part of a major campaign of defamation and criminalisation against CODEDI, as well as systematic attacks and criminalisation against its members. This escalated from January 2018 to November 2019, with five murders, two attempted murders, six arbitrary arrests, three break-ins and robberies, as well as permanent threats and harassment, and the militarisation of the area where CODEDI’s training centre is located. These attacks remain unpunished to this day, despite the communications issued by UN rapporteurs.

The Observatory therefore expresses serious concern for the safety and physical and psychological wellbeing of Fredy García Ramírez following his release, and calls on the Mexican authorities to adopt protective measures for him, his family, and all CODEDI members.

The Observatory reiterates its concern about the persistent pattern of criminalisation of human rights defenders in Mexico to silence their voices — particularly those who defend the right to land and territory. The State uses arbitrary detention and the improper use of criminal proceedings to hinder and punish those who, like Mr. García, work every day to defend, protect, and promote human rights. The Observatory recalls that this pattern of criminalisation, particularly in the State of Oaxaca, has been corroborated by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In recent years, this working group has issued eight opinions highlighting the arbitrary detention of 32 human rights defenders in Mexico and has demanded their immediate release; six of these opinions were about cases in Oaxaca.

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