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Human rights commission condemns police assault on journalists in Ciudad Juárez

(CEPET/IFEX) - The following is a 17 September 2007 statement from CEPET, an interim member of IFEX:

CNDH calls for sanctions in case of police assault on journalists

Mexico, 17 September 2007 - The National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has recommended that Chihuahua state governor José Reyes Baeza take action on the case of a 2006 assault by police officers on three journalists in Ciudad Juárez, in northern Mexico, according to the 17 September 2007 edition of "El Universal" newspaper.

The commission found that, on 5 September 2006, police officers violated the rights of journalists Eugenia Cícero Rivera and Aurelio Suárez Núñez, reporters with the evening newspaper "PM", and Jaime Murrieta Briones, a photojournalist with "El Diario". The officers beat the journalists, damaged their vehicle by firing upon it, and seized their cameras to prevent them from publishing incriminating photographs.

The incident occurred when the journalists sought to photograph a scene in which some 20 people, including the on-duty police officers, were drinking alcohol on a public street and disturbing the peace.

The commission called for legal sanctions against police officers José Abelardo Torres Bernal and Jorge Manuel Villegas Esparza for maliciously motivated injuries, and against private citizens Rubén Antonio Martínez Olivares, Ricardo Barrios Simental and Carlos Alberto Hernández Luna, also for malicious injuries as well as for damages to the journalists' property, theft and possession of arms which can lawfully only be used by the Army.

As the state attorney general's office (Procuraduría) has not acted on the warrant for Villegas Esparza's arrest, the Commission recommended to the governor that he ask the State Comptroller's Office (Contraloría) to investigate the culpability of the state police implicated in the incident, and also the possibility of irregularities or omissions in the preliminary investigation into the case, conducted by agents of the Attorney General's office (Ministerio Público).

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