EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 41/62/97
UA 235/97 Fear for torture/ill-treatment/arbitrary arrests/
Legal concern 25 July 1997
MEXICOEnriqueta Ruiz(f), human rights and union activist
Joel Alberto García González, lawyer, human rights and union
74 workers and union activists
On 21 July 1997, 74 workers were arbitrarily and violently arrested by riot
police in Villahermosa, Tobasco state, during a peaceful strike to demand
improved labour conditions. The workers, who were exercising their
constitutional right to peaceful union activism, are activist members of the
recently formed Coalición de Trabajadores Burócratas, Coalition of
Administrative Workers, an organization created as an alternative to the
official government union. They were held incommunicado for 36 hours and were
denied access to lawyers, relatives and medical care.
On 21 July Enriqueta Ruiz and Joel Alberto García González were arbitrarily
detained in the office of the Procuraduría General, (PGE), Attorney General’s
Office of Tabasco state while requesting a visit to the 74 detained workers.
Eye-witness reports state that they were subject to ill-treatment and that
Joel Alberto was repeatedly hit with a rifle-butt and dragged down the stairs
of the premises by PGE officials.
Amnesty International believes that all 76 detainees are prisoners of conscience
who therefore should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Amnesty International has often documented torture and ill-treatment by Tobasco
state riot police and therefore fears that those detained are at risk of torture
or ill-treatment. Members of the Comité de Derechos Humanos de Tabasco,
(CODEHUTAB), Human Rights Committee of Tabasco, who have been able to visit
the workers lately, have confirmed that the conditions in the detention centre
are appalling to the extent that they amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading
Enriqueta Ruiz and Joel Alberto García González are well-known human rights
activists in Mexico, with a particular focus on workers’ rights. Joel Alberto
has received threats in the past, forcing him to flee Tabasco state in 1993
for almost a year in fear for his safety.
Amnesty International has recorded a long-term pattern of harassment by security
forces and threats targeted at government critics and professional groups such
as journalists, lawyers and union leaders. Since 1996, the level of harassment
against human rights defenders has increased significantly.
The Mexican government, despite continually pledging to protect human rights
defenders, has consistently failed to take effective action to ensure a safe
environment for professionals and activists. The organization is concerned
at the impunity enjoyed by the majority of those responsible.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
Spanish or your own language:
- calling for prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations
of the use of arbitrary arrest and the use of excessive force and ill-treatment