Mexico: Concerns about the ongoing persecution and threats against Mexican lawyer Juan Carlos Flores Solís
8 February, 2023
Lawyers for Lawyers and the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (OIAD) is concerned about the harassment faced by Mr. Juan Carlos Flores Solís. Mr. Flores Solis is the primary defense lawyer in the cases brought against the energy and hydroextractivist megaproject “Proyecto Integral Morelos” (PIM), which affects over 80 communities in three different states within Mexico.
This megaproject raises severe environmental concerns, as it is set to create industrial plants that will drain and contaminate water reserves, encroach on indigenous lands and bring about general pollution in the Morelos, Tlaxcala and Puebla regions, which will affect the health and well-being of the population. As communities have mobilized to protest this megaproject, the work carried out by Mr. Flores Solís has become essential to ensure the protection of human rights, indigenous rights, environmental rights and the general upholding of the rule of law, a cornerstone of any modern democracy.
As it relates to his work as a lawyer in indigenous and environmental rights cases, Mr. Flores Solís has, over the course of several years, experienced several instances of persecution and threats against his person. These include constant countersuits filed by opposing counsel on procedural matters, as well as meritless criminal complaints against him personally. Moreover, both Mr. Flores Solis’s person and property have been the target of criminal attacks. This past October, Mr. Flores Solis was the victim of an assassination attempt, perpetrated through the tampering of the screws on his vehicle. Meanwhile, his house was raided on three separate occasions within the span of 10 days this past April.
Mr. Flores Solís is currently the beneficiary of the Mexican Protection Mechanism. As a result, several cameras were installed around Mr. Flores Solis´s property upon his request. However, footage of April’s raiding incidents, as well as other suspicious incidents around Mr. Flores Solis´s property was seized by government employees when they came to repair cameras that had been damaged during one of the raids. Mr. Flores Solis attempted to retrieve the footage but was informed by authorities that it had been deleted and could thus not be returned. Other government officials have confirmed this is not standard procedure.
Lawyers for Lawyers and the Observatory believe the threat faced by Mr. Flores Solís is significant and requires intervention by local and regional authorities. The threats and attempts made against his person speak to a culture where the legal profession cannot be safely practiced. As articles 16 and 17 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers state, governments must ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance or improper interference” and “where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Therefore we call on the Mexican authorities to:
- Ensure that the Protection Mechanism works effectively in offering measures to Mr. Flores Solis to improve security around his person and enable him to work without fear for his life.
- Ensure that the Judicial parties hearing complaints made against Mr. Flores Solis in relation to his work as legal counsel take this role into account and consider the vested interest of those accusing him in doing so.
- Ensure the participation of Mr. Flores Solis in the expert proceedings regarding the PIM. This right is ensured by the federal civil code and should be recognized by the judge handling the case. We expressly requests the Federal Judicial Council to enact impartial justice and to guarantee the unhindered continuation of the work done by Mr. Flores Solís in his capacity as a lawyer in the cases brought against the PIM.
- Ensure that all lawyers in Mexico are able to represent their clients without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and without threats of prosecution or administrative sanctions for any actions they take in accordance with internationally recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
Mexico: Three break-ins in less than 15 days at the home of environmental lawyer Juan Carlos Flores Solís
3 May 2022
Juan Carlos Flores Solís is a lawyer for the Peoples’ Front in Defence of Land and Water – Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala (FPDTA-MPT), an organisation that defends the human rights, land, territory, environment and self-determination of indigenous peoples. His work with this organisation has focused in recent years on providing legal advice to different indigenous Nahua communities fighting against the extraction and contamination of water, both in the Cuautla River, in the municipality of Ayala, Morelos, and in Juan C. Bonilla, Puebla.
Founder of the FPDTA-MPT since 2008, the lawyer was persecuted and unjustly imprisoned on 7 April 2014 for his work as a legal advisor to the population affected by the Integral Morelos Project, which affects the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala with the installation of a 160km gas pipeline in the foothills of the Popocépetl volcano, a thermoelectric plant in the community of Huexca, Morelos, and an aqueduct, affecting around 80 communities in the 3 states.
Following the 2019 assassination of environmental activist Samir Flores, his level of risk has increased as he is identified as the next most senior person in the organisation.
Over the last month, Juan Carlos has received several attacks on his home through the following break-ins:
- 5 April 2022: he found his home broken into in the village of Santa María Zacatepec, municipality of Juan C. Bonilla, Puebla. The gate and padlock on the front door of the house were broken, his room was completely searched, his documents were inspected and thrown on the floor, and several valuables were taken. Juan Carlos states that the violent break-in at his home, the removal of personal objects and the implicit messages left by the perpetrator(s), such as a knife in his bed and the manipulation of a photo of him and his family, constitute a direct threat against his life and that of his family.
- 10 April 2022: despite having alerted the Mexican authorities about the violent events that took place on 5 April, Juan Carlos returns home to find that his house has been burgled again and claims that the person(s) who entered broke a window and broke in through it. He claims that his belongings have again been removed and the knife that had been left on his bed for proofs has disappeared.
- 14 April 2022: During the latest break-in on 14 April 2022, the unknown persons took papers from a bookcase in one room, a backpack containing several belongings and political event badges, and left the house in a mess.
Juan Carlos Flores Solís and Miryam Vargas Teutle report that the police did not respond in time to the request of The Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, that suggested that a patrol should guard the house after the first burglary on 5 April 2022.
The OIAD expresses its concern and condemns these harassment operations against the lawyer Juan Carlos Flores.
The OIAD draws attention to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and in particular Principles 16 and 17 which state the following:
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics” (Principle 16)
“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.” (Principle 17)
The OIAD has called on the Mexican authorities and to the Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists to adopt measures to ensure the full protection of lawyer Flores and to publicly recognise his work defending the rights of victims of serious human rights violations.