Mexico holding 500 political prisoners, says rights body
Thursday 22nd November, 2007
More than 500 political prisoners are in jails across Mexico without access to their legal rights, according to an NGO, Spanish news agency EFE reported Thursday.
The independent group called the Decade Against Impunity Solidarity Network (RSD) released a report Wednesday, mentioning in details false charges, use of torture to force confession and denial of civil and legal rights to political detainees.
It said that many social and political activists have been imprisoned in Mexico, some of them awaiting trial. The prisoners are being denied their rights because of the lengthy judicial process, the RSD report said.
'Mexico is going through difficult times because grassroots movements are being criminalized,' activist Ericka Zamora said while presenting the study.
She said the Mexican government has stopped accusing political prisoners of crimes such as rebellion, conspiracy and sedition, and now charges them with terrorism, kidnapping, organised crime, homicide, illegal use of land or water and drug trafficking, among other offences.
'Social struggle and defending human rights in the country have become high-risk activities because of constant threats of arrest and harassment of grassroots activists,' Zamora said.
The report highlighted, for example, the case of two indigenous Nahua people who have been detained for 22 months in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz on charges of organised crime and committing terrorist acts.
The RSD said the men, who are yet to stand trial, were innocent but were jailed because they were brothers of a suspected member of the small EPR guerrilla group.
Samuel Ruiz, the Catholic bishop emeritus of the southeastern state of Chiapas, who was present at the presentation of the report, said that in the majority of the cases there was 'a groundless accusation and the defendant is forced to confess through repression, oppression and torture.'
Meanwhile, the director of the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Centre for Human Rights, Luis Arriaga, criticised the government of rightist President Felipe Calderon for ignoring the recommendations of organisations like the United Nations regarding the protection of human rights.
Calderon has been criticised by various sectors, including the state-funded, autonomous National Human Rights Commission, for deploying the military to combat violent drug gangs.
These actions have given rise to accusations of unlawful killing, rape and other abuses on the part of the soldiers, he said.