MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s independent National Human Rights Commission urged the army to compensate four reporters held for 16 hours by soldiers and submitted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The incidents occurred Aug. 7, 2007 in the northern state of Coahuila, where the newsmen Manuel Acosta, Sinhue Samaniego, Jesus Arnoldo Gonzalez and Jose Alberto Rodriguez went to cover a military operation, but withdrew when they saw it had finished.
Nonetheless, the reporters were intercepted by 17 soldiers who “forced them to get out of their vehicles, tied them up and interrogated them,” the rights commission said in a communique.
The soldiers put the four reporters in a truck and held them for hours, during which time they “blindfolded them, beat them and forced them to lie face down on the floor,” and later accused them before the civil authorities of belonging to Los Zetas, the armed branch of the Gulf drug cartel.
The commission said that when federal prosecutors took over the case they released the newsmen because there was no proof of the crimes they were charged with.
Prosecutors also began investigating the soldiers for abuse of authority and handed over the case to a military tribunal, which shelved it because the lieutenant leading the operation had died, and for which reason no charges were brought against the other 16 soldiers involved.
In view of the circumstances, the rights panel issued a recommendation to the Mexican Defense department to compensate the reporters affected, without mentioning any amounts.
It also asked that the case be reopened to investigate and determine the responsibility of the soldiers implicated.
The government of President Felipe Calderon, who took office in December 2006, is employing the strategy of fighting organized crime with the deployment of 50,000 soldiers and 30,000 federal police at several points around the country, which has sparked criticism by human rights activists who say the army should not be involved in law enforcement.
Troops waging the drug war have been involved in killings and sexual assaults, among other abuses. EFE