PBI-Mexico present as court orders release of three Purépecha defenders criminalized for seeking Indigenous governance

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On February 9, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project tweeted: “Today we were present together with social organizations and members of the indigenous community of #Nahuatzen who celebrated in front of the @SCJN [Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation] the immediate release order for 3 defenders imprisoned since 2018. We join the celebration for #NahuatzenLibre [Free Nahuatzen].”

PBI-Mexico also tweeted: “The Supreme Court recognized that there were serious violations of human rights against the community defenders of #Nahuatzen, who seek to exercise their right to self-determination, and therefore ordered their absolute and immediate release.”

Nahuatzen is a municipality in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The community is situated about 400 kilometres west of Mexico City.

Atiempo.mx explains: “The indigenous leaders were arrested in 2018 and sentenced to seven years in prison for ‘seeking that Nahuatzen was recognized as an indigenous municipality’ where they could choose their authorities according to their customs.”

They had led the process to establish a new government without political parties, shaped by the uses and customs of their community.

They were accused of “sabotage” for riots that occurred on November 1, 2018, despite the fact they were not present in Nahuatzen that day. Their imprisonment was interpreted as retaliation “for having expelled the political parties from their community.”

The Supreme Indigenous Council of Michoacán denounced their arrests three years ago and determined that they were political prisoners.

Excelsior reports: “The First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) [has now] ordered the immediate and unconditional release of the Purépecha leaders José Gerardo Talavera Pineda, José Antonio Arreola Jiménez and José Luis Jiménez Meza.”

That article also notes: “The members of the Indigenous Citizen Council of Nahuatzen, in the state of Michoacán, were arrested on November 1, 2018, for demanding that their community be recognized as an indigenous municipality, so that the election of their authorities is governed by customs, without the participation of political parties.”

And it further highlights: “It was also possible to prove that the three accused were victims of torture, so Michoacán state authorities were ordered to investigate the facts, to punish those responsible.”

Significantly, the Supreme Court of Justice decision recognizes the right of indigenous people to “enjoy the recognition of cultural diversity and to rely on rights such as self-determination, self-government, the application of their own self-regulatory systems, to land, territory and its natural resources, and full access to the jurisdiction of the State.”

This joint statement from civil society organizations highlights: “The verdict of the highest court represents an important precedent for all indigenous communities in Mexico who, like José Antonio and José Luis, face criminalisation, persecution, violence and displacement due to their exercise of their rights as indigenous communities.”

Video: The moment at the Supreme Court of Justice when members of the Nahuatzen community heard the ruling that orders the release of their community authorities.

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