Mexico: Illegal surveillance against several human rights defenders, journalists and anti-corruption activists

05/07/2017
Urgent Appeal
en es

MEX 005 / 0617 /OBS 071
Illegal surveillance
Mexico
June 28, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Mexico.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh) and by other reliable sources about the illegal surveillance carried out against several human rights defenders, journalists and anti-corruption activists, including Mr. Mario Patrón and Mr. Santiago Aguirre, the Director and Deputy Director of Centro Prodh, respectively, Ms. Stephanie Brewer, Coordinator of the International Department of Centro Prodh and member of the General Assembly of OMCT, the journalists of Aristegui Noticias [1] Ms. Carmen Aristegui [2], Mr. Rafael Cabrera and Mr.Sebastián Barragán, the radio, TV and print journalist Mr. Carlos Loret de Mola, Mr. Salvador Camarena and Mr. Daniel Lizárraga, the Director General for Investigative Journalism and the Head of Information of Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (MCCI, Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity), respectively, as well as Mr. Juan Pardinas and Ms. Alexandra Zapata, Director and Investigator of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), respectively. Likewise, some family members of these individuals have also been under surveillance.

According to the information received, a new [3] investigation recently published by several organisations [4] has proven the use of spyware, allegedly by the Mexican authorities. The Israeli company NSO Group sells this spyware, known as Pegasus, exclusively to government authorities for approximately USD 77,000 (EUR 68,000) per surveillance target. This surveillance would have targeted the mobile phones of human rights defenders, journalists and anti-corruption activists. The spyware sends text messages containing infectious links that allow Pegasus to access any information stored in the device as well as to undetectably activate the microphone and the camera.

The investigation indicates that the attempts to infect the devices were carried out on key dates for the human rights work of those under surveillance. For example, between April and June 2016, key dates for the work carried out by Centro Prodh in the case of the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, in the case of the Tlatlaya massacre and in the case of sexual torture in Atenco; and during August and September 2015, when Mr. Carlos Loret de Mola was developing his journalistic work on the extrajudicial killings in Tanhuato, Michoacán, by the Federal Police.

The Observatory reports that this new investigation seems to prove the existence of a systematic harassment policy against human rights defenders, journalists and anti-corruption activists, in violation of many regulations inherent in the Rule of Law.

Moreover, we would like to express our deep concern regarding the initial statement made by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who at first denied the possible involvement of the Government in these surveillance actions, with no investigation to back such assertion. He also expressed that he expected the law to be enforced against those having wrongfully pointed at the government (that is, against the activists and journalists who had reported the surveillance) [5].

The Observatory would like to remind that, as stated by Mr. Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is determined by the criminalisation of their work through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power to hinder and even prevent the legitimate right to promote and protect human rights [6].

Finally, the Observatory condemns this illegal surveillance and demands the end of this policy and an effective, independent, and impartial in-depth investigation on the aforementioned facts, with the goal of bringing those responsible before a competent court and enforcing the criminal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided for by the law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Mexico urging them to:

i. Carry out an effective, independent, and impartial in-depth investigation on the aforementioned facts, with the goal of bringing those responsible before a competent court and enforcing the criminal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided for by the law;

ii. Guarantee the immediate termination of any kind of surveillance against human rights defenders, journalists and anti-corruption activists in Mexico;

iii.Immediately take all the appropriate measures to ensure the safety and the physical and psychological integrity of all individuals affected and of all human rights defenders in Mexico in general.

iv. Implement recognition policies, including the public acknowledgement by the President of the Republic and by other senior officials of the importance of the legitimate work carried out by human rights defenders;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Mexico.

Addresses:

· Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto, President of the United Mexican States. E-mail: enrique.penanieto@presidencia.gob.mx
· Mr. Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Minister of Interior. E-mail: secretario@segob.gob.mx
· Dr. Raúl Cervantes Andrade, General Prosecutor of the Republic. E-mail: raul.cervantes@pgr.gob.mx
· Mr. Roberto Campa Cifrián, Deputy-Minister on Legal and Human Rights Affairs, Ministry of Interior. E-mail: rcampa@segob.gob.mx
· Dr. Luis Raúl González Pérez, President of the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH). E-mail: correo@cndh.org.mx
· Mr. Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco, Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations in Geneva. E-mail: mission.mexico@ties.itu.int
· Mr. Ambassador Eloy Cantú Segovia, Mission of Mexico to the European Union and Mexican Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. E-mail: embamex@embamex.eu / pavila@embamex.eu
· Ambassador Dr. Luis Alfonso de Alba, Permanente Mission of Mexico to the Organisation of American States (OAS). E-mail: mexico.oea@sre.gob.mx

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Mexico in your respective country

***

Geneva-Paris, June 28, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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