GENEVA June 5, 2019 – UN human rights experts* have expressed grave concerns about criminal charges brought against Scott Warren, a U.S. citizen who works for an aid organisation providing water and medical aid to migrants in the Arizona desert.
Warren’s trial began on 29 May 2019, and if found guilty he faces up to 20 years in jail.
“Providing humanitarian aid is not a crime. We urge the US authorities to immediately drop all charges against Scott Warren,” the experts said.
Warren, 36, lives in the desert town of Ajo, Arizona, where he helped to establish the organisation No More Deaths, which provides humanitarian assistance along migration routes. For the past 10 years, he has helped migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the Arizona – Mexican border through the Sonora desert.
Border Control agents arrested the human rights defender on 17 January 2018 at “the Barn”, a humanitarian shelter in the Sonora Desert, while he was providing assistance to two undocumented migrants. His arrest came hours after the release of a report from No More Deaths which documented the implication of Border Control agents in the systematic destruction of humanitarian supplies, including water stores, and denounced a pattern of harassment, intimidation and surveillance against humanitarian aid workers.
Warren faces charges on two counts of “harboring” migrants and one count of “conspiring to transport and harbor” migrants.
Arizona has some of the deadliest migrant corridors along the US border, accounting for more than a third of more than 7,000 border deaths recorded by US authorities over the last two decades. The actual numbers are likely to be higher, given the remains of many of those who die are not recovered.
“The vital and legitimate humanitarian work of Scott Warren and No More Deaths upholds the right to life and prevents the deaths of migrants and asylum seekers at the US-Mexican border,” said the UN experts.
“The prosecution of Scott Warren represents an unacceptable escalation of existing patterns criminalising migrant rights defenders along the migrant caravan routes.”
The experts are in contact with the U.S. authorities on the issues.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association; Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children
The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts 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.
UN Human Rights, country page – United States of America