Human Rights Clinic wins Salgado case before United Nations

February 03, 2016

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that Mexico's detention of Nestora Salgado-García, a client of the law school's International Human Rights Clinic, is illegal and arbitrary, and that she must be released immediately.

The Working Group, an international panel of five independent human rights experts, fully assessed the evidence in Salgado's case, as well as responses from the government of Mexico. Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen and resident of Renton, has been imprisoned in Mexico since August 2013.

Tom Antkowiak"After over two years of litigation, the Working Group has finally ruled on the merits of Nestora's case," said Thomas Antkowiak, director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law. "We couldn't have hoped for a more resounding decision in her favor. Mexico cannot elude its detailed findings and clear instructions for her freedom and reparations."

Salgado was arrested for her work with an indigenous law enforcement group in her village of Olinalá in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Guerrero law and the Mexican Constitution guarantee the rights of indigenous communities to form their own security institutions. Salgado's group was officially part of state law enforcement, and had the express approval of Guerrero's governor. 

Mexico has yet to respond publicly to U.N. Working Group decision.

The panel's ruling is the latest in a series of international condemnations of Salgado's detention.  In January 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Mexico to act immediately to protect the "life and physical integrity" of Salgado. The Washington, D.C.-based commission issued precautionary measures in response to Salgado's alarming detention conditions and deteriorating health.

Nestora SalgadoIn March of last year, a Mexican federal judge dismissed criminal charges in Salgado's case, but the state of Guerrero continues to hold her.  Salgado has chronic health problems and has suffered greatly in prison.

Salgado moved to the United States in 1991 at the age of 20. She divided her time between Olinalá and the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband, José Luis Avila, her daughters, and grandchildren.