On Feb. 17, 2015 the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) submitted an urgent communication to three United Nations (UN) human rights mandate holders. It cited serious human rights violations, including physical assaults and death threats against 18 Indigenous human rights defenders opposing a large scale development impacting the Otomi Indigenous community of San Francisco Magu, Mexico. The communication was submitted to Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions which also addresses death threats. It was copied to Jaime Martínez Veloz, Commissioner for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples of Mexico (Comisionado para el Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas de México).
The Indigenous Human Rights Defenders who have received death threats include María Berenice Sánchez Lozada, IITC’s Food Sovereignty Program Coordinator in Mexico and a member of the San Francisco Magu Otomi Community Council. In December 2012, IITC submitted an urgent action against the planned development to Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya on behalf of San Francisco Magu Otomi Community and the Indigenous organization Di Sugave a Nana Shimjaí. The development was halted until recently, when plans were renewed with the support of the Municipality.
San Francisco Magu Otomi community, Municipality of Nicolás Romero, State of Mexico, continues to firmly oppose a planned large-scale real estate development on their traditional territory which would decimate their traditional forest and agricultural lands and deplete the water sources essential for their survival and way of life.
The IITC communication notes that the Municipality’s and Developer’s actions violate Article 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which outlines the need to obtain Indigenous Peoples free prior and informed consent before development projects affecting their lands, territories or other resources are approved or carried out. On August 31st, 2014 the Otomi community adopted a resolution declaring an “Indigenous Food Sovereignty Zone” on their traditional territories, in part to protect them against this imposed development.
Despite the opposition of the Indigenous Community Council, the Municipality of Nicolás Romero issued a permit to change the land use so that the development can move forward. The Municipal President recently formed a “shock group” and filed an investigation into the activities of the Otomi Community Council, accusing 25 community members of “dispossession, abuse of power, theft, sedition, mutiny and rebellion.”
IITC’s communication cited this as a stark example of the ongoing criminalization of Indigenous human rights defenders. It called upon the UN Human Rights Rapporteurs to seek, receive, examine and respond to information on the urgent situation of these Indigenous human rights defenders. It also emphasized the need for immediate UN intervention to provide mediation and insist that the government of Mexico carry out its obligations to ensure their safety and protect their lives.
For additional Information contact:
Legal Counsel, IITC
María Berenice Sánchez Lozada,
Cell number: 044 55 23 39 39 28
Community members request that letters to support their stand against imposed development in their traditional territories and to insist that their safety be ensured be sent to:
Jaime Martínez Veloz,
Commissioner for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples of Mexico (Comisionado para el Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas de México) [per Alejandro Robledo Flores, Asistente del Arq. Jaime Martínez Veloz] firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com