Mexico: “Protest is a Right, Repression is a Crime.” Statement from Edgar Cortez (Red TDT)

Edgar Cortez presents the “Protest is a Right, Repression is a Crime” campaign at Centro Prodh

Edgar Cortez, Executive Secretary of the National Network of Civil Organizations for Human Rights ‘All Rights for All’ (Red TDT, Red Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos), spoke on the organization’s national campaign “Protest is a Right, Repression is a Crime” at the First National Meeting of Human Rights Defenders and Family Members of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Conscience which took place July 24 through 26 in Mexico City.

The introduction to his comments touched on the poverty in Mexico as well as the lack of human rights vigilance stating that “there is not only an economic inequality, but rather this inequality is translated into an inequality of the possibility of enjoying all of one’s rights.” His remarks revolved around the recent constitutional reforms of the Mexican judicial system which were approved on June 18 of this year. While Cortez admits that there are some good changes made in the reform, the definition of “organized crime” has been extended so broadly that it may very well be applied to social protest and social activists. His presentation refers to the fact that “the full weight of the law” is used against social protest without evidence or the guarantee of due process.” The presentation also claims that “in Mexico, rights are used to ‘mistreat those they should care for, persecute those they should protect, ignore those they should pay more attention to and serve those they should control.’”

Cortez also mentioned a need for dialogue within the human rights arena on a definition for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. He cites a differentiation in the definitions of each stating that a prisoner of conscience is imprisoned purely for his/her beliefs (political, religious, etc.) without any evidence of a crime committed while a political prisoner will have engaged in a crime or violence as an expression of his/her beliefs and is therefore imprisoned. He also raises the definition used by Amnesty International as a reference for further discussion on the topic within the human rights community in Mexico. Such definition, that first appeared in Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson’s writing “The Forgotten Prisoners” (1961) define prisoners of conscience “any person who is physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing (in any form of words or symbols) any opinion which he honestly holds and which does not advocate or condone personal violence.”

To view Edgar Cortez’ presentation in full (in Spanish) click on the link below:

“La Protesta es un Derecho, la Represión un Delito”. Ponencia de Edgar Cortez (Red TDT) (SIPAZ, 13/08/08)

More information:

Prisoners of Conscience (Amnesty International, 2008)

The Forgotten Prisoners (Amnesty International, 1961)

Mexico: Conclusion of the First National Meeting of Human Rights Defenders and Family Members of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Conscience (SIPAZ 19/08/08)

More Information in Spanish:

“Protestar es un Derecho, Reprimir es un Delito”, Campaña Nacional de la Red TDT

México: Se concluye el Primer Encuentro Nacional de Defensores/as de Derechos Humanos y Familiares de Presos/as Políticos y de Conciencia (SIPAZ, 12/08/2008)

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