WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
2 Oct 2012 | News

Mexican Government Must Take Steps to Protect Torture Victim Israel Arzate

On October 2, 2012, WOLA called on Mexican officials at both the national and state level to take steps to ensure the physical safety of Israel Arzate Meléndez, a resident of Ciudad Juarez currently under house arrest.

In February 2010, Mr. Arzate was arbitrarily detained, held incommunicado, and tortured into signing a confession that he had participated in a massacre of fifteen youths in Villas de Salvárcar, Chihuahua. (Mr. Arzate’s case was profiled in WOLA’s 2010 report Abused and Afraid in Ciudad Juarez, and WOLA has closely followed the case since then). In spite of the fact that the use of testimony obtained through torture is prohibited in Mexico, the judge admitted his confession and dismissed his allegations of torture as fabricated. The National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) later examined Mr. Arzate and determined that he had indeed been tortured. Further investigations are pending.

Thanks to a ruling issued last week by a District Judge, Mr. Arzate was transferred from prison to house arrest on September 26, 2012. However, since then, statements made by Eduardo Guerrero Durán, the Chihuahua Prosecutor for the Execution of Sentences and Judicial Measures (Fiscal Especializado en Ejecución de Penas y Medidas Judiciales) have indicated that Mr. Arzate’s life is in danger due to death threats that he has previously received, and that in spite of the fact that twenty agents are guarding his home, there is a “very high risk that he will be killed.”

The risk to Mr. Arzate’s life is partially due to the lack of cooperation on the part of the prosecution and the judge in the case. The Prosecutor for the Execution of Sentences and Judicial Measures has stated that certain infrastructural changes must be made to Mr. Arzate’s home in order to ensure his safety. However, in spite of the fact that his defense has submitted a formal request, both the prosecution and the judge have blocked the implementation of such changes by refusing to turn over a copy of the document establishing the changes to be made and by not allowing the necessary materials, personnel, and tools to enter Mr. Arzate’s home. Thus, the responsibility for the danger in which Mr. Arzate finds himself lies with those that, as of October 1, had not cooperated with his defense.

It is imperative that steps be taken to ensure the physical safety of Mr. Arzate. WOLA joins with members of Mexican civil society to call on the Mexican government—both at the national and state level—to guarantee Mr. Arzate’s security in accordance with human rights standards and the applicable legal frameworks.

Click here to read WOLA’s letter to Mexican Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré (Spanish only)

Click here to read WOLA’s letter to Chihuahua Governor César Duarte Jáquez (Spanish only).