Pressure is increasing on Mexico to free imprisoned community activist Nestora Salgado since the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a ruling that her imprisonment is illegal. The International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University Law School had been pursuing her case before the Geneva-based panel for about two years. In the decision—reached in December, but only released Feb. 2—the five-member panel called her arrest arbitrary, and called on Mexico to immediately free and compensate her for the violation of her human rights. The panel found that she was arrested for her leadership of a local "community police" group, which is protected under Mexican law. Additionally, the panel charges that she was denied contact with her lawyers and family for almost year, and has been denied adequate medical care and access to clean water in prison. Finally, the finding charged that she was improperly arrested by the military, and her US passport was ignored. "In the first place, there is no doubt that the arrest and detention without charges is illegal and thus arbitrary," reads the finding. "Furthermore, the military arresting civilians for presumed crimes when national security is not at risk is worrying."
Salgado, a grandmother who had lived in the Seattle area for 20 years and become a US citizen, returned her village of Olinalá in southern Mexico's Guerrero state when local residents launched the "community police" movement to defend against the narco-gangs that were terrorizing the community. Her lawyers maintain that such self-defense patrols are protected under Mexican law. But after she ordered her followeres to arrest a local official for collaboration with criminal gangs, she herself was arrested in August 2013. Her family members in Olinalá have since been threatened with death.
The UN Working Group's decision is non-binding, but places greater pressure on Mexico address the case. The same week it released its ruling in the Salgado case, the Working Group made headlines with its finding that Wikileaks mastermind Julian Assange has been improperly "detained" by Britain and Sweden. Wanted by Swedish authorities in connection with rape charges, since 2012 he has taken refuge from arrest in London's Ecuadoran embassy. (Seattle Globalist, Feb. 9; The Telegraph, Feb. 5; Mexico News Daily, Feb. 4; AP, Feb. 2)