Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where Human Rights and Environmental Rights Collide

Yesterday, an Inter-American court ruled against Mexico in a case that involved threats, torture, and environmental degradation.  Two peasant ecologists, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, were trying to protect a mountain against illegal logging when they found themselves confronted by the Mexican army.

In 1999, the army arrested them for peacefully blocking roads, and the government charged them with bogus drug and weapons crimes.  Members of the army then beat the two men and threatened to harm their families.  Two years later, the international community pressured the Mexican government enough to release Montiel and Cabrera, but they were never pardoned.

Yesterday's decision held that the Mexican government had violated the men's rights to liberty, personal integrity, due process, and judicial protection.  The court ordered Mexico to pay damages to Montiel and Cabrera as to properly investigate the instances of torture they experienced so that those responsible can be brought to justice.

Before this ruling, the Mexican military investigated its own matters when the military was alleged to have engaged in illegal activity.  This often led to coerced confessions and substantive impunity.  Now, the government, not the military, must investigate the matter.  So far, Mexico has said that it would abide by the binding decision.

You can read the whole story here.

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