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National human rights commission denounces irregularities in investigation of journalist's murder

(CEPET/IFEX) - The National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has issued a report condemning irregularities in the investigation of journalist Amado Ramírez's murder. The CNDH submitted the report along with recommendations to the Guerrero state governor and the federal Attorney General's Office.

The CNDH concluded that the investigation was plagued by omission, harassment of witnesses, falsifying of evidence, torture and other human rights violations. The commission also condemned the authorities for failing to investigate if Ramírez's murder was work-related.

Ramírez was a correspondent for the Televisa television station and the host of a news programme broadcast on Radiorama radio station, in Guerrero, southeastern Mexico. On the evening of 6 April 2007, he had just stepped into his car when he was shot. He managed to get out of the car and walk to the California Inn hotel, where he died.

On 10 April, Genaro Vázquez Durán and Leonel Bustos Muñoz were arrested by the federal police in connection with the journalist's murder.

A few days later, Vázquez's relatives filed a complaint with the CNDH claiming that the suspect's rights had been violated and denouncing that he had been unlawfully detained, tortured, held incommunicado, and that some of his belongings were seized or stolen. Through psychological examination and questioning, the CNDH was able to confirm that Vázquez and Bustos were tortured and suffered cruel and inhumane treatment while in custody.

The CNDH noted additional irregularities committed by state and federal authorities. The Attorney General's Office was criticised for ignoring the testimony of two witnesses who said that Ramírez had received threats before his murder. Moreover, even though the Guerrero Prosecutor's Office told the media that four possible motives were being investigated, including the possibility that the murder was linked to the journalist's profession, only one possible motive citing personal reasons was pursued. The CNDH noted that the authorities did not search the journalist's office or look at his computer as part of their investigation.

According to information published on journalist Ricardo Alemán's column in the Mexico City-based daily "El Universal", an armed group known as the Brigada de Insurgencia Revolucionaria claimed to have killed Ramírez by "mistake". The authorities did not follow up this allegation.

The authorities' theory that the murderer was motivated by personal reasons was thrown into question after an individual who reportedly referred to the journalist's former romantic partner later told the CNDH that he/she had never provided this testimony.

The CNDH was also able to document the manipulation of witnesses and the alteration of testimonies. One of the witnesses reported having been pressured by members of the Guerrero Prosecutor's Office to testify against Vázquez.

In its recommendations, the CNDH urged the federal and state authorities to investigate government officials who have been accused of harassing witnesses, falsifying evidence, and torturing and mistreating the suspects while in custody. The CNDH names a number of officials of the Prosecutor's Office - Carlos Vinalay de la Rosa, Esteban Maldonado Palacios, David García Muñoz and Raciel González García, Epifanio Martínez Bailón - as well as members of the Ministerial Police, in charge of the "historical neighbourhoods" department.

The CNDH also urged authorities to pursue all possible avenues of investigation.

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