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Scott Warren facing 20-year prison sentence for providing humanitarian aid

Status: 
Facing Trial
About the situation

On 12 November 2019, the United States authorities will prosecute migrant rights defender Dr. Scott Warren for the second time, charged with harbouring two migrants, after he provided them with humanitarian assistance in his town of Ajo, Arizona.

On 2 July 2019, the US Attorney's Office in Tucson, Arizona announced it would retry Scott Warren in a felony case. The government dropped a conspiracy charge and will retry Scott Warren on 12 November on two counts of harbouring migrants.

On 11 June, jurors in the felony trial against Scott Warren were unable to reach a verdict, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial in the case. U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins brought the 12-person jury into the Tucson federal courtroom on the afternoon of June 11, after they indicated for a second time that they were deadlocked on all three charges Warren faced. The judge dismissed the jury after each member told him that additional time deliberating would not result in a verdict. Eight of the twelve jurors were committed to finding Scott Warren 'not guilty'.

On 29 May 2019, Scott Warren will face felony trial at the Evo A. DeConcini United States Courthouse in Tucson, Arizona. The human rights defender is charged with two counts of “harbouring” migrants in Ajo, Arizona, and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

About Scott Warren

Dr. Scott Warren is a member of the group No More Deaths / No Más Muertes which provides water and medical aid on migration routes, and documents the deaths of migrants in the desert. He lives in Ajo, Arizona and for over ten years has provided life-saving humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers who attempt crossing the Mexico-US border through the Sonora desert.

11 November 2019
Migrant rights defender Scott Warren on trial for providing humanitarian aid to migrants

On 12 November 2019, the United States authorities will prosecute migrant rights defender Dr. Scott Warren for the second time, charged with harbouring two migrants, after he provided them with humanitarian assistance in his town of Ajo, Arizona.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Dr. Scott Warren is a member of the group No More Deaths / No Más Muertes, which provides water and medical aid on migration routes, and documents the deaths of migrants in the desert. He lives in Ajo, Arizona and for over ten years has provided life-saving humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers who attempt to cross the Mexico-US border through the Sonora desert.

On 11 June 2019, jurors in the felony trial against Scott Warren were unable to reach a verdict, (eight of the twelve jurors found Scott Warren 'not guilty'), prompting U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins to declare a mistrial. On 2 July 2019, the US Attorney's Office in Tucson, Arizona announced it would retry Scott Warren in a felony case. The government dropped a conspiracy charge and will retry Scott Warren on 12 November 2019 on two counts of harbouring illegal migrants.

The criminalisation of Scott Warren represents an escalation of existing patterns of harassment against humanitarian volunteers and human rights defenders in Arizona. In 2018, officers of the Fish and Wildlife Services accused Scott Warren and other volunteers of No More Deaths for entering the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most deadly migrant corridors along the Mexico-US border, to provide life-saving aid, including water, food and medical supplies, to migrants crossing the desert.

The prosecution of the migrant rights defender forms part of a series of systematic efforts by the authorities in the United States to hamper the work of migrant rights defenders, and comes in the context of a migration crisis exacerbated by the border enforcement policy of “prevention through deterrence.” This policy, which funnels migrants and asylum seekers into the most deadly corridors of the desert, is believed to cause thousands of deaths and disappearances in the desert. Every year, the highest number of deaths related to migration in the United States is recorded in Arizona.

On recent country visits, Front Line Defenders found that defamation and criminalisation of humanitarian activity is increasing along the migrant caravan routes.

A new investigative report (September 2019) from Front Line Defenders and Mexican partners PRAMI and RedTDT found that human rights defenders in Mexico and the United States have been detained, harassed and criminalised for the provision of humanitarian aid, including distributing food, water and medical supplies, and operating emergency shelters for migrant families. The targeted surveillance, interrogation, and judicial harassment of human rights defenders providing humanitarian aid and support to asylum seekers demonstrates that authorities in the United States are escalating their tactics of deterrence.

Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalisation of Scott Warren, as it is believed to be directly motivated by his humanitarian work assisting migrants and documenting their deaths. Front Line Defenders is further concerned about the increased use of the judiciary to target human rights defenders and organisations who assist migrants at the United States-Mexico border, including by selective enforcement of the law.

4 July 2019
Scott Warren to be Retried

On 2 July, the US Attorney's Office in Tucson, Arizona announced it would retry Scott Warren in a felony case. The government dropped a conspiracy charge and will retry Scott Warren on 12 November on two counts of harbouring migrants.

4 July 2019
Hung Jury in Scott Warren Trial

On 11 June, jurors in the felony trial against Scott Warren were unable to reach a verdict, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial in the case. U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins brought the 12-person jury into the Tucson federal courtroom on the afternoon of June 11, after they indicated for a second time that they were deadlocked on all three charges Warren faced. The judge dismissed the jury after each member told him that additional time deliberating would not result in a verdict. Eight of the twelve jurors were committed to finding Scott Warren 'not guilty'.

29 May 2019
Scott Warren facing 20-year prison sentence for providing humanitarian aid

On 29 May 2019, Scott Warren is due to face a felony trial at the Evo A. DeConcini United States Courthouse in Tucson, Arizona. The human rights defender is charged with two counts of “harbouring” migrants in Ajo, Arizona, and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. If found guilty, he might be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment.

Dr. Scott Warren is a human rights defender working on migration issues in Ajo, Arizona. For over ten years, he has provided humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers who attempt crossing the Mexico-US border through the Sonora desert. He helped establish the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths or No Más Muertes which provides water and medical aid on migration routes, and documents the deaths of migrants in the desert.

On 29 May 2019 at 9:30am, Scott Warren’s trial began at the Evo A. DeConcini United States Courthouse in Tucson, Arizona, for two counts of “harbouring” migrants and one count of “conspiracy to transport and harbour” migrants. On 21 May 2019, the judge assigned to the case rejected a motion to dismiss the indictment. Scott Warren’s lawyers argued that the case against him "arose from selective enforcement of the laws by the Border Patrol" and that he was being targeted specifically for his work in defence of migrants’ rights. Evidence of surveillance activities carried out against Warren by the U.S. Border Patrol were included in the lawyers' motion.

On 17 January 2018, Scott Warren was detained at a volunteer gathering point known as the “Barn”, located in Ajo, by a convoy of U.S. Border Patrol agents from a specialised anti-smuggling unit. The agents were wearing plain clothes, did not present the human rights defender with a warrant and disregarded his request that they leave the property. Earlier on that day, No More Deaths had published a report denouncing Border Patrol officers’ destruction of water gallons left by volunteers for migrants crossing the desert.

The criminalisation of Scott Warren represents an escalation of existing patterns of harassment against humanitarian volunteers and human rights defenders in Arizona. In 2018, officers of the Fish and Wildlife Services cited Scott Warren and other volunteers of No More Deaths for entering the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most deadly migrant corridors along the Mexico-US border, to provide life-saving aid, including water, food and medical supplies, to migrants crossing the desert.

The prosecution of the migrant rights defender forms part of a series of systematic efforts by the authorities in the United States to criminalise migrant rights defenders, and comes in a context of a migration crisis exacerbated by the border enforcement policy of “prevention through deterrence.” This policy, which funnels migrants and asylum seekers into the most deadly corridors of the desert, is believed to cause thousands of deaths and disappearances. Every year, the highest number of deaths related to migration in the United States is recorded in Arizona.

On recent country visits, Front Line Defenders found that defamation and criminalisation of humanitarian activity is increasing along the migrant caravan routes. Human rights defenders in Mexico and the United States have been detained, harassed and criminalised for the provision of humanitarian aid, including distributing food, water and medical supplies, and operating emergency shelters for migrant families. The targeted surveillance, interrogation, and judicial harassment of human rights defenders providing humanitarian aid and support to asylum seekers demonstrates that authorities in the United States are escalating their tactics of deterrence.

Front Line Defenders condemns the criminalisation of Scott Warren, as it is believed to be directly motivated by his humanitarian work assisting migrants and documenting their deaths. Front Line Defenders is further concerned about the increased use of the judiciary to target human rights defenders and organisations who assist migrants at the United States – Mexico border, including by selective enforcement of the law.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the United States to:

1. Strongly condemn the unjust criminalisation of Scott Warren, as well as of other human rights defenders working on migration rights;

2. Immediately drop all charges against Scott Warren, as they are believed to be solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the United States are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.