GENEVA (14 February 2018) – The United States Government must respect the rights of human rights defenders, a group of UN experts* has said, amid concern over action being taken against a Mexican woman who campaigns to protect migrants’ rights.
Maru Mora Villalpando, who has been in the US since 1996, is facing deportation proceedings after fronting a high-profile campaign against alleged human rights violations at a US immigrants’ detention centre, operated by a private company on behalf of the US Government.
“Ms. Villalpando’s notice to appear at deportation proceedings, received without warning, seems to be related to her advocacy work on behalf of migrant detainees,” the experts said.
“We urge the US Government to protect and ensure Ms. Villalpando’s rights as a defender and her right to family life.
“The authorities should take all necessary measures to guarantee that no action, including detention and deportation, as means of retaliation, is taken against Ms. Villalpando for reporting cases of the detention of immigrants and alleged violations of their human rights, especially in view of the reported conditions in these centres of detention.”
The experts said they were concerned that Ms. Villalpando’s case appeared to be part of a pattern.
“Giving people notice of deportation proceedings appears to be a part of an increasing pattern of intimidation and retaliation against people defending migrants’ rights in the US,” the experts said.
“People working legitimately to protect migrants’ rights must not be restricted or silenced. Their rights must be upheld so they can continue to exercise their vital role.”
Ms. Villalpando, whose 20-year-old daughter is a US citizen, is co-founder of a group which highlights human rights concerns about the Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington.
She has raised the issue with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, alleging corporate involvement in human rights violations as well as expressing concern over hunger strikes and the deportation of migrants.
The experts also stressed the need for the centre to meet international human rights standards and for the Government to exercise proper oversight of the privatized facility.
The UN experts have been in contact with the Government regarding their concerns.
* The UN experts: Ms. Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Dante Pesce, Vice-Chair of UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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