In an “Urgent Call to Action” declared on August 28th, Human Right Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas (Frayba) denounced new cases of harassment toward their workers as well as the communities and organizations they work alongside.
The Urgent Call to Action makes reference to events that have occurred since June, including harassment against Frayba’s director, Diego Cadenas Gordillo, the center’s president, Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia (who is the bishop emeritus of San Cristobal de Las Casas) as well as other employees of the Center. The Urgent Call to Action also refers to the criminal complaint made against Frayba by Esdras Alonso Gonzalez for “attacks to communication lines, attacks against the peace and security of the people, biodiversity and breaking and entering.” The accusations are linked to follow-up activities carried out by Frayba in Mitziton.
According to the Urgent Call to Action, during a protest on August 10th and 11th to denounce the liberation of prisoners accused of the Acteal massacre, a person taking pictures and asking Frayba workers about the event’s organization turned out to be a member of the military. On August 17th, after a ceremony and press conference with the Mexican representative of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Frayba’s workers were followed and under surveillance by people in a Ford Fiesta with no license plate. The car slowed down along with the workers, proving that their goal was to closely follow the workers movements.
The final complaint was made regarding an event that is documented in detail in the text of the Urgent Call to Action. A person who claimed to be a member of the “Campesina Organization of Independent Workers” and supposedly sent by the General Secretary of the State of Chiapas, Noe Castañón, asked to speak to the director of Frayba to “establish direct contact and communication with you (Frayba) and Las Abejas.” According to Frayba the person stated, “the Governor has failed to carry out his campaign promises, has deceived people, and has been a disaster for the state government.” The person went on to say that’s why the Government Secretary “wants to talk to Don Samuel and Gonzalo Ituarte as well as the president of Las Abejas as soon as possible, so that they can ask for what they want” and for this, he asked for Frayba’s help to make contact. He also indicated that “Juan Sabines will no longer be Governor after presenting his government report, and it’s certain that Noe Castañón will become Governor” and that “he will immediately respond to everything Frayba demands.” When Frayba contacted Noe Castañón about his supposed representative, Castañón said “he hadn’t sent anyone and he was certain that this person was an impostor.”
Given this situation, Frayba reports “the accumulation of acts of harassment, surveillance, threats, defamation, slander and intimidation against its workers constitutes an attack against the personal and psychological integrity of the Frayba team. Besides being a violation of human rights, these acts impede and put at risk the development of our work in favor of the indigenous and non-indigenous people and communities of Chiapas.”
For more information (in Spanish):
Acción Urgente: “En Chiapas se criminaliza la defensa de los Derechos Humanos”, CDHFBC (28/08/2009)
More information from SIPAZ:
Chiapas: concern regarding threats faced by human rights defenders (june 2009)