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MEXICO: lawyer Oscar Zamudio Campos facing harassment and criminal proceedings for his professional activities

4 August 2023

Oscar Zamudio is a lawyer with more than 15 years’ experience in criminal litigation in Mexico, participating in the defence of complex legal and political cases. In 2021, Oscar Zamudio represented Carlos Treviño, former director of “Petróleos Mexicanos”, and uncovered acts of corruption committed by the Attorney General’s office and the federal judge before whom his client’s trial was to take place.

The Observatory has received information that Oscar Zamudio is being investigated for the offence of abandoning his defence. The investigation was opened following his strategic decision, as a defence lawyer, to inform the judge that neither he nor his client would appear before him. According to him, the minimum conditions guaranteeing his client’s right to a fair trial had not been met. To sanction this, the judge considered that he had abandoned the defence, with the intention of leaving his client without legal representation. He also ordered the Public Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation against lawyer Oscar Zamudio for the offence known in criminal law as “abandonment of the defence”.

The Observatory has also been informed that the Attorney General’s office has opened a second investigation against him: according to him, Oscar Zamudio has committed an offence that is specifically reprehensible for lawyers, which is the deliberate dissemination of false information.

According to Oscar Zamudio, this was in response to his denunciation of the Attorney General’s Office, which had allegedly committed acts of torture against third parties in order to obtain false statements against his client. The aim was to initiate criminal proceedings.

The Observatory is concerned about the criminal proceedings brought against the lawyer Oscar Zamudio, which jeopardise the free and independent practice of lawyers and send out a general message that prevents the denunciation of criminal acts, thus affecting the practice of the profession.

The Observatory urges Mexican authorities to respect all the guarantees of a fair trial in the cases against Oscar Zamudio, and to guarantee the free and independent exercise of the lawyer.

The Observatory reiterates that, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16, 18, 19 and 20:

Principle 16: “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 18: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

Principle 19: “No court or administrative authority before whom the right to counsel is recognized shall refuse to recognize the right of a lawyer to appear before it for his or her client unless that lawyer has been disqualified in accordance with national law and practice and in conformity with these principles.”

Principle 20: “Lawyers shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court, tribunal or other legal or administrative authority.”