On 28 November 2010, human rights defenders Mr Cuauhtémoc Ramírez Rodríguez and Ms Obtilia Eugenio Manuel received death threats against them and family members, when a letter containing the threats was left at the defenders’ residence. Both human rights defenders work for the Organización del Pueblo Indígena Me’phaa – OPIM (Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organisation).
On 28 November 2010, Cuauhtémoc Ramírez Rodríguez and Obtilia Eugenio Manuel found a death threat written on a sheet of paper that had been pushed under the door of their home. The threat made specific reference to a case which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard in August 2010, in which elements of the Mexican military were found guilty of torturing and raping Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, two indigenous women from Guerrero. The threat opened with the lines: “Hola Obtilia. Ahora ya sabemo donde vive por que tanto molesta de la asunto Inés y Valentina deje estar chingando en la asunto sentencia de las dos mujeres por que son de la organización mephaa” (Hello Obtilia. Now we know where you are living why are you messing about with the case of Inés and Valentina stop fucking around with the issue of the sentence of the two women because they are from the mephaa organisation). It continued: “calmate con tu gente de la organización porque sino te va carga la chingada principalmente para ti obti si no dejan estai vamo por tu familia” (calm down, you and the people of your organisation, because if you don’t we will fuck you mainly for you Obti if you don’t stop this we will go for your family), as well as: “calmate Cuahutemoc porque se van carga la chingada” (calm down Cuahutemoc or they will kill you). As a result of previous threats received by the human rights defenders they had moved home and their whereabouts were believed to be unknown.
On 29 November, at approximately 2:00pm, a black Cherokee Jeep was seen driving around the neighbourhood in a manner which aroused suspicion. The Jeep was driven by a man in his early to mid thirties. There were also two other passengers inside. Later the same day, at approximately 9:00pm, a white pick-up truck parked very close to the defenders’ home and remained there for approximately 15 minutes. There were three men inside, aged between 30-35. One hour later, at approximately 10:00pm, two suspicious vehicles were reported to have been seen in the immediate vicinity of the defenders’ home.
On 1 December 2010, a report (A.V. 2049/2010/IZMAT) detailing the death threat was filed with the Izúcar de Matamoros agency, headed by Public Prosecutor Luis Pérez Rojas, in Izúcar de Matamoros City, Puebla.
On 1 October 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling which recognised that gross human rights violations were committed against both Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, and their families, including impunity for those who carried out the attack, as well as harassment of those who worked to support the women in their pursuit of justice. The Inter-American Court found that the State had failed to adequately investigate the allegations of torture and sexual assault, and demanded that the State re-open the criminal investigation, and curb the use of military tribunals as a means of investigating human rights violations. OPIM has called on the Mexican government on numerous occasions to abide by the court ruling and re-open a criminal investigation as outlined by the court.
In the past OPIM has received threats against staff members as a result of their work in the defence of human rights. In 2009 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Mexican State to adopt provisional measures concerning 107 human rights defenders in Guerrero state. Such measures however have failed to bring about change and there are still grave risks involved for human rights defenders working in Guerrero. Front Line has previously issued appeals detailing an on-going campaign of intimidation, harassment, threats, and assassinations against human rights defenders in Guerrero.
Front Line is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Cuauhtémoc Ramírez Rodríguez and Obtilia Eugenio Manuel, as well as members of their families, and believes that they have been targeted solely as a result of their work in the defence of human rights.
Front Line urges the Mexican authorities to:
- Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the death threats against human rights defenders Cuauhtémoc Ramírez Rodríguez and Obtilia Eugenio Manuel, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Guarantee at all times the physical and psychological integrity of aforementioned human rights defenders as well as all human rights defenders working in Guerrero, particularly by ensuring that adequate and effective security measures are provided to protect human rights defenders at risk and members of their families;
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Guerrero, carrying out their legitimate work in the defence of human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.