MEXICO: Credibility of investigation into the death of Digna Ochoa

'Since Digna Ochoa's death, leaks by the PGJDF to the media appearing to give greater weight to a non-political motive for the crime, have consistently undermined the credibility of the investigation', said the organisation. 'This latest leak raises serious doubts about the commitment of the authorities to carry out a prompt, impartial, transparent and thorough investigation, and has caused consternation and pain to her family, friends and colleagues.'

In their failure to conduct effective investigations, the prosecution services in Mexico frequently seek to blame the victim for the crime rather than bring to justice those really responsible. Furthermore, many high profile investigations in the past have floundered amidst rumours and leaks which have diverted attention and ultimately allowed those responsible to remain untouched. 'The onus is on the PGJDF to overcome these practices of entrenched impunity and to transparently demonstrate the thoroughness of its investigation', said Amnesty International.

'If the investigation by the PGJDF into Digna Ochoa's death is not to become another chapter of this sorry history, all the evidence allegedly collated must be made available to independent scrutiny,' Amnesty International said.

Any information on the case should first be made available to Digna Ochoa's family and lawyers at the Centro de Derechos Humanos 'Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez' (PRODH), Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre, who are official assistants (coaduyvantes) on the case. Unofficial and unchallengeable leaks should be rigorously prevented. Above all, the PGJDF must ensure that all leads in the enquiry are thoroughly investigated, particularly the possible role of state agents in her death, before drawing conclusions.

'Failure to fulfill these basic principals will leave the results of the investigation open to serious question, cause unwarranted further distress to Digna Ochoa's family and friends and taint the vital contribution that Digna Ochoa made to human rights protection in Mexico,' the organisation added.

Background

Digna Ochoa y Plácido was shot dead in a legal office in Mexico city in on 19 October 2001. A death threat was left warning other human rights defenders from the Centro de Derechos Humanos 'Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez' (PRODH), Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre, that they would meet a similar fate, if they continued their human rights work.

Digna Ochoa was a leading human rights lawyer who had won international awards in recognition of her human rights work. She had worked with PRODH for many years on cases in which public officials, including members of the Offices of the Attorney General and the armed forces, had been implicated in serious human rights violations. She had campaigned to expose the perpetrators and force the authorities to bring them to justice.

Between 1995 and 1999 Digna Ochoa was threatened and attacked many times. Official investigations into these incidents produced no results.

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