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National Human Rights Commission detects irregularities in investigation into assassination of journalist Bradley Will

(CEPET/IFEX) - The Mexican National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos de México, CNDH) has published recommendations directed at the Oaxaca government, the Oaxaca state Congress and the national and state Attorney General's Offices after having detected irregularities in the investigation into the assassination of journalist Bradley Will on 27 October 2006. Will was shot and killed in the community of Santa Lucía del Camino while covering conflicts that were taking place in the Oaxaca state, southern Mexico.

The CNDH's recommendations are directed towards the national attorney general (procurador general de la república, PGR), Eduardo Medina Mora, the governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, and the president of Oaxaca's Congressional High Commission, Herminio Manuel Cuevas.

According to the investigations conducted by the national and state Attorney General's Offices, Will was shot from a distance of less than two metres while he was covering a confrontation between state police officers in Santa Lucía del Camino and members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, APPO). The Attorney General's Offices investigations also indicate that Will was shot a second time after being moved from the street to a vehicle. At the time of the shooting, Will was located on the APPO side of the confrontation.

The CNDH came to the conclusion that the version of events presented by the PGR and the Oaxaca state Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia de Oaxaca, PGJ), which alleges that Will was shot by APPO members, is lacking in substance. In a published statement, the human rights commission said that the evidence and investigative results that would support this conclusion do not exist and that, according to the CNDH's own review of the case, the shots fired at Will came from a distance of 35 to 50 metres, and not the two to ten metres indicated by the PGR and PGJ. The CNDH report indicates that there was only one assassin involved in the journalist's death and that the killer was located in front of the journalist, not at his side.

The CNDH statement outlines a series of omissions, deficiencies and delays in the federal and state authorities' investigations into the assassination, among them the failure of the PGJ's Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) to preserve evidence, locate and obtain witness testimonies and trace vehicles involved in the assassination, in addition to incomplete interrogations by police. The commission also indicated that Will's family members were not given adequate protection or the necessary access to the justice system.

As a result of the above, the CNDH has called on the PGR to instruct the national Public Ministry to expedite the investigation into Will's assassination and take into consideration the conclusions of international experts recommended by the CNDH. The commission has also asked the Oaxaca state government to look into the responsibility of police and ministerial authorities in the omissions and deficiencies that have taken place in the investigation of the case.

Similarly, the CNDH has called on the Oaxaca state Congressional High Commission to open administrative proceedings against the former mayor of the municipality of Santa Lucía del Camino for failing to provide information to the commission.

Will's family has accused the state authorities of being involved in the journalist's assassination. In November 2006, a municipal official, who belongs to Governor Ruiz's political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), and the head of his security staff were detained in connection with Will's assassination, but they were released one month later.

Updates the Will case:

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