Human Rights Clinic seeks release of woman illegally jailed in Mexico

November 25, 2013

The International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law filed a petition today seeking the release of Nestora Salgado, who has been illegally imprisoned in Mexico for more than three months. The petition to the  United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was filed by Professor Tom Antkowiak, director of the Human Rights Clinic and an expert in international law.

Tom Antowiak and family Salgado was arrested August 21, 2013, for her courageous community work in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. A naturalized U.S. citizen, she grew up in the small indigenous village of Olinalá in Guerrero. She moved to the United States in 1991 at the age of 20. More recently, she divided her time between Olinalá and the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband, José Luis Avila, her daughters, and grandchildren.

(Shown here: Professor Tom Antkowiak reviews paperwork with Nestora's daughter, Grisel Rodriguez, and husband, José Luis Avila.)

Guerrero has the highest murder rate in Mexico and is plagued by drug trafficking, steep poverty, and political corruption. The worsening situation led Salgado to advocate for human rights and to join the indigenous movement for community policing. Guerrero state laws and the Mexican Constitution guarantee the right of indigenous communities to self-government and self-defense, including the formation of their own police forces.  The impact of her community policing leadership was dramatic - a 90 percent drop in the crime rate and no murders during its 10 months of operation.

Salgado was seized by soldiers after detaining teenage girls for dealing drugs and a local official for tampering with evidence at a crime scene. She is falsely charged with kidnapping both the official and the girls.

"Nestora's resolute commitment to her community, in the face of attacks from drug cartels and persecution from corrupt officials, led to her arbitrary arrest and imprisonment," Antkowiak said.

Nestora SalgadoSalgado was detained without an arrest warrant and has been incarcerated in the maximum-security prison of El Rincon, in Nayarit, 2,000 miles from Olinalá. For weeks, Salgado was denied visits from an attorney and family members. She has been refused treatment for severe neuropathy in her hands and feet. Her supporters, as well as other indigenous leaders, have endured death threats and various reprisals from Mexican military and police. Rocío Mesino-Mesino, another prominent woman activist, was recently assassinated in Guerrero.

"My mother is suffering greatly and is in extreme danger. To save her, we pray for the support of the U.S. government, our leaders in the state of Washington, and the United Nations," said daughter Grisel Rodriguez, of Renton.

The family hopes to have Salgado released for the holidays.

"Every single day, when I wake up in the morning, it's the first thing I think about," her husband said.

Her supporters will gather for a rally at 11 a.m. on Human Rights Day, Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Consulate of Mexico in Seattle, 2132 3rd Ave.