Lid taken off investigation into murder of Brad Will

Reporters Without Borders writes to the Federal Justice Minister

Federal Justice Minister
Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza

Dear Minister,

Reporters Without Borders has just learned, as have you, of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) recommendation 50/2008 on the investigation into the murder of US cameraman Brad Will, of the news agency Indymedia, in Oaxaca, on 27 October 2006 at the height of a very serious political and social crisis (see our previous releases). The conclusions of this report, released on 28 September 2008, are damning for the Oaxaca state and the federal authorities, whose job was to see that light was shed on the case. Apart from the continual impunity, the organisation is scandalised, as was the CNDH, by the unbelievable lack of transparency throughout the investigation that the Will family was in the right to demand.

According to the CNDH, the investigations carried out by the judicial authorities of Oaxaca state, then by the federal justice minister, were a whitewash of the alleged perpetrators of the shooting that killed Brad Will. They were however spontaneously identified by numerous witnesses as being members of the personal guard of the state governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, who has never been questioned in connection with the case.

The post mortem examination and ballistic tests appeared to have been carried out with the aim of removing all suspicion of the local authorities, when the direct witnesses of the killing clearly pointed the finger at them, and to shift the entire responsibility for the death of Brad Will onto the militants of the Popular Assembly of the Oaxaca People (APPO) – which is in open conflict with the governor – which the journalist was following during his reporting. The Oaxaca justice system certified that the murder weapon took 9 mm bullets, which did not match the bullet wounds found on the victim’s body. The federal justice ministry referred to a distance between the gunman and the victim of between 30 and 60 centimetres, then, a little later as between two and 10 metres. The confusion was deepened by an unreliable description of the victim’s injuries and a careless estimate of the time of death.

The CNDH pointed up other serious areas of negligence in the handling of evidence and clues (insufficient protection of the crime scene, poor conservation of the victim’s clothes, incomplete witness statements and so on) In its conclusions, the CNDH concluded that Brad Will was hit by two bullets, both from the same gun and fired at his front, from a distance of between 30 and 50 metres, which in fact points to the personal guard of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.

The 50/2008 recommendation was addressed to you, to the governor of Oaxaca state, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, as well as the president of the Grand Commission of the Oaxaca Congress, Herminio Manuel Cuevas. At a time when Congress is about to adopt, at the request of President Calderón, a bill to federalise all murders and offences against journalists, the time has come for an explanation.

After two years of impunity, Reporters Without Borders makes the following recommendations:

– That the three addressees of the recommendation make a public explanation about the failures of the investigation before the Congress and representatives of the CNDH, in the presence of the victim’s family.
– That action be taken by your services against the administration of the Oaxaca state government so that full light can be shed on the exact circumstances of the death of Brad Will.
– That on the basis of the work carried out by the CNDH, the federal justice ministry restarts the investigation from scratch.

I trust you will give this your careful consideration and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard
Secretary General

CC Mr Octavio Alberto Orellana Warco
Special prosecuting office for offences against journalists
Public Prosecutor, Mexico D.F.