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Oaxaca: arbitrary detentions
by Amnesty International
Friday Jan 5th, 2007 7:02 AM
More than 140 people, including 34 women, were detained in Oaxaca City, southern Mexico, on 25 November when a protest against the state governor ended in violent clashes with federal and state police.
Many detainees were reported to have been beaten and threatened with death once in custody. They were denied access to their families, legal advice and adequate medical attention for several days.

On 27 November, at the request of state authorities, detainees were transferred to a federal prison in Nayarit state, 1200km from Oaxaca, where access to family, lawyers and medical care was severely restricted. Non-governmental human rights organizations and relatives who were finally allowed to visit the prisoners reported that many detainees still showed signs of the beatings suffered at the time of arrest and of cruel treatment while in detention, such as shaven hair, even for women. The National Human Rights Commission has reportedly examined those detained but has not made its findings public, though it describes a widespread lack of respect for fundamental human rights in a recently published preliminary report on the Oaxacan conflict.

Two days after arriving in Nayarit, three football players amongst the detained were released without charge when the authorities acknowledged that they were not involved in protests.

On 16 December, after three weeks in detention, 43 people were released. The state government is reported to have dropped the charges and paid for their bail. On 20 December, 91 of the 95 detainees were moved back to two state prisons in Oaxaca, and subsequently 11 were released. On 21 December 80 remained in custody. Many of those detained were reportedly not involved in the protests or violence, but they all face serious criminal charges such as sedition, attacks on public roads, arson and theft. Amnesty International is concerned that breaches in due process rights of detainees and reliance on some falsified police evidence violate the right to a fair trial and the right not to be detained arbitrarily.

The new federal government took office on 1 December, since when arrest warrants issued by Oaxaca state judicial authorities have been implemented against several teachers and supporters of the local opposition movement, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca, APPO). Amnesty International recognizes that criminal offences committed during protests should be investigated impartially. However, during the crisis the organization has documented widespread human rights violations, particularly by municipal and state officials, including excessive use of force, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture, fabrication of evidence, and political killings. Despite this, during a recent visit by Amnesty International to Oaxaca, no evidence that the authorities were impartially or effectively investigating such abuses could be found.

Amnesty International recognizes the responsibility of state and federal authorities to guarantee public order and prosecute those implicated in violence. However, the measures taken must always respect international human rights standards.
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