Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

International Human Rights Clinic Secures Activist’s Release

After over two and a half years of imprisonment on false charges by the Mexican government, Renton resident Nestora Salgado-Garcia was released on March 18.
Salgado is a naturalized United States citizen who grew up in Olinala in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. She moved to the Seattle area in 1991 and started a family, but would still return to her native village to help the impoverished residents as an advocate for indigenous people. Guerrero has one of the highest murder rates among Mexican states, with Forbes reporting 1,075 murders in 2014.

Salgado and others aimed to stop these violent crimes by using Guerrero state laws which allow indigenous communities to organize police forces from the local population for self-defense. Mainly targeting a gang called Los Rojos, Salgado and others organized a community police force that worked to end violence in Olinala. The police force began patrols and were successful with the Freedom for Nestora Committee reporting a 90 percent drop in the crime rate during the 10 months the force was in operation.

Despite this success, Salgado was arrested without a warrant on Aug. 21, 2013 on the charges of kidnapping after detaining teenage girls who were dealing drugs as well as an official who tampered with the evidence. Denied access to an attorney and health care, Salgado held that the charges were false and she was innocent. She protested her imprisonment by going on a 31 day hunger strike in May 2015.

Salgado is a client of Seattle University School of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic, a project that allows students of the law school to interact first-hand with other human rights organizations and advocacy projects. Additionally, the project also takes on specific court cases, such as Salgado’s.

The Clinic has worked to ensure Salgado’s freedom since the fall of 2013, petitioning the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to review her imprisonment. This February, the Clinic won the case before the United Nations, ruling that Salgado’s imprisonment was illegal and arbitrary and insisting that she should be compensated for the violation of her human rights.

“In the first place, there is no doubt that the arrest and detention without charges is illegal and thus arbitrary,” wrote the U.N. Working Group in their official statement. “Furthermore, the military arresting civilians for presumed crimes when national security is not at risk is worrying.”

Director of the Clinic and attorney Thomas Antkowiak has been working on the case since her imprisonment in 2013.

“We couldn’t have hoped for a more resounding decision in her favor. Mexico cannot elude its detailed findings and clear instructions for her [Salgado’s] freedom and reparations,” Antkowiak said in a statement on the Seattle U School of Law’s website on Feb. 3.

Despite the ruling that her imprisonment was arbitrary and illegal from the U.N. and dropped charges by a Mexican federal judge, Salgado was still imprisoned by the state of Guerrero for another month with deteriorating health.

This prolonged imprisonment drew outrage and a collective community effort for her release.

Over 200 local, national, and international organizations endorsed Salgado, including the Washington State Labor Council, Radical Women, and Mexico-US Solidarity Network. City councils and officials also supported her fight, including the Renton City Council, the King County Council, and the Seattle City Council. Additionally, Congressman Adam Smith and Senator Patricia Murray advocated for her release, calling on the Department of State to take action in her case.

This support from government officials and organizations along with the pressure from the U.N.’s decision finally led to Salgado’s release on March 18.

“We are thrilled that Nestora will finally be reunited with her family and many supporters, who have all fought so resolutely for her freedom,” Antkowiak said in statement on the School of Law’s website on the day of her release.

Landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on March 22, Salgado was welcomed home by supporters and her family who she has not seen since her imprisonment.

“I paid for crimes that I did not commit and for nothing more than defending my people,” Salgado said in a press conference upon her release.

Despite her time imprisoned, Salgado hopes to return to Olinala to continue her work helping the indigenous people. She also hopes to help other political prisoners in Mexico seek freedom.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor

Comments (0)

All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *