On 27 October 2006, US video journalist Brad Will was shot and killed in Oaxaca City, southern Mexico as he filmed a clash between members of a local protest movement (Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca, APPO) and supporters and officials of the local governing party.
Three years later, Amnesty International believes that the truth about Brad Will's death has still not come out. Juan Manuel Martínez, an APPO sympathiser, has been detained pending trial since October 2008 for Will's murder. However, Amnesty International believes the evidence against him is flawed and he is a being used as a scapegoat.
Brad Will was in Mexico to film the widespread protests and political violence that started in Oaxaca City in June 2006 and continued into 2007. At least twelve other people were killed in Oaxaca City during the violence and scores more were illegally detained and ill-treated.
Investigations carried out by the Offices of the Oaxaca State Attorney General and the Federal Attorney General insist that Brad Will was shot at close range and that a witness saw Juan Manuel Martínez near him at the time of the shooting.
However, this key witness did not originally identify Juan Manuel Martínez and did not actually see Brad Will being shot.
Independent experts from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the National Human Rights Commission have reviewed the forensic evidence and concluded that the official forensic conclusion - that the shots were fired from close range - is not based on scientific evidence.
After winning an appeal against his committal for trial, Juan Manuel remains in prison as the judge ordered a second and new committal for trial. Amnesty International believes the detention and prosecution of Juan Manuel Martínez is not based on reliable evidence and appears to be driven by the need to demonstrate progress in Brad Will’s case
Demonstrating progress in resolving the case gained importance when the US Congress made it a condition of the release of some of the US funding to the Merida Initiative, a major regional security co-operation and assistance programme between the US, Mexico, and Central America.
The tragedy and injustice of Brad Will's death and Juan Manuel Martínez’s unfounded prosecution are part of the failure to investigate and hold to account those responsible for widespread human rights violations committed in Oaxaca in 2006 and 2007.
In October 2009, Mexico’s National Supreme Court of Justice concluded that serious human rights violations were committed in Oaxaca state. It attributed responsibility for many abuses to some senior public officials, including the governor of Oaxaca state. The Court called for those responsible to be held to account, but the authorities have yet to respond.
It is time for the killing of Brad Will to be impartially investigated and prosecuted on the basis of reliable evidence and according to international fair trial standards.