On March 11, 2009, the Commission received the petition and assigned number P-348-09 to it. On May 7, 2009, the Commission received additional information. On May 29, 2014, the Commission forwarded the pertinent parts of the petition to the State. The State’s reply was received on September 19, 2014, and forwarded to the petitioner on March 9, 2015.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
Position of the petitioner
The petitioner asserted that at the time the events took place Mr. Jiménez Mota was working as a journalist at the newspaper El Imparcial, and that the paper was investigating organized crime and public safety in the State of Sonora, Mexico.
The petitioner stated that at four o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, April 2, 2005, Jiménez Mota was on his way to the offices of El Imparcial. When he was two or three blocks from his destination, as he crossed Plaza Hidalgo, the alleged victim was reportedly photographed by two individuals. This, according to the complaint, had frightened Jiménez Mota, and he sought refuge in a restaurant where he knew the owners. After the people who had photographed him left, the alleged victim went to the newspaper. The petitioner stated that, according to computer records, Jiménez Mota left at 8:45 p.m. The petition asserts that, at 9:00 p.m., Jiménez Mota contacted a reporter friend, with whom he planned to meet up later that night together with other friends. It affirms that the alleged victim told his friend that he was going to meet one of his contacts beforehand, and "that he was very nervous.”
According to the petition, the alleged victim was with the then-Assistant Director of the State Penitentiary System of Sonora between 9:00 and 10:00 that night. According to the petitioner, the alleged victim conversed with this person about matters he was investigating, and upon his departure he said that he had to go see another contact.
The petitioner stated that there were no other witnesses to provide an account of what happened next. According to the petitioner, the alleged victim’s cell phone shows that the last call he received that Saturday was at 23:04 hours. It was reportedly a call from the then-deputy director of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office in Sonora, who—according to the petition—was “one of his main sources of information.” It stated that in the investigation process undertaken following Jiménez Mota’s disappearance the then-deputy director of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office in Sonora denied having a close relationship with the alleged victim, although he backpedaled upon learning of the existence of the record of their phone conversation; he later stated that he may have called Jiménez Mota, but that he had not answered. Nevertheless, according to the petition, the phone records showed a two-minute conversation. In view of this information, the deputy director responded that Jiménez Mota had called him to ask for some information, but, according to the petition, the deputy director told the reporter that he had to ask the Communications Office. According to the complaint, Jiménez Mota never arrived at the gathering with his friends as he had planned that night. He has remained disappeared since that time.
The petitioner stated that for several days no one suspected that the alleged victim had disappeared. It was on Tuesday, April 5, 2005 that Jiménez Mota’s relatives reported his disappearance to the State Office of the Attorney General. The case was registered under number 90/05, for the offense of unlawful deprivation of liberty and other offenses resulting from the investigation. The petitioner provided an account of various reactions from public authorities regarding the journalist’s disappearance, as well as the statements of journalists demanding his return.
On April 25, 2005, the case file on the disappearance of journalist José Alfredo Jiménez Mota was taken over for investigation by federal authorities, and was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigation into Organized Crime (Subprocuraduría de Investigación Especializada de Delincuencia Organizada, SIEDO2). The petitioner stated that from that point forward there were numerous changes in the prosecutors in charge of investigating the facts. Indeed, one prosecutor was assigned on May 2, 2005, and then removed 23 days later because of errors in the proceedings and a lack of diligence. The next prosecutor assigned to the case was later removed, according to the petition, because he was "very exposed” and had been identified by organized crime groups. The following prosecutor was also removed. According to the petitioner, no reasons were given publicly to explain these removals; it was just reported that a new prosecutor had been appointed who would work, according to the petition, from Mexico City. In the petitioner’s opinion, the change in prosecutors “was interpreted as a brake on the investigations, as that last prosecutor’s investigations were reportedly aimed at federal public servants as co-perpetrators."
The petitioner stated that SIEDO reported having 10 lines of investigation linked to drug trafficking in Sonora. It stated that one of them attributed responsibility for the kidnapping and disappearance of the alleged victim to the then-director of the Sonora State Preventive Police, as well as eight alleged drug traffickers. It added that in a February 2006 report the weekly newspaper Zeta de Tijuana ran a story reporting that numerous public servants of the State de Sonora were tied to drug trafficking, including the State Attorney General and the director of the State Preventive Police. The petitioner stated that the article published in Zeta de Tijuana was allegedly based on an internal report of the National Security and Investigation Center (CISEN) detailing the links between employees of the State de Sonora and drug trafficking. The petitioner also stated that Jiménez Mota had reportedly been investigating the facts in this report prior to his disappearance, but that "it is unknown whether the PGR is investigating whether this report could be one of the motives for his disappearance." It further stated that Jiménez Mota’s disappearance has also been connected to the actions of hit men from the organization “Los Números.”
Finally, the petitioner indicated that there had been no significant progress in the investigation since then. It stated that as of June 2005, 36 individuals had been questioned, and that in the following 3 years, until April 2008, statements had only been taken from 14 more people. It noted that a statement issued by the Attorney General’s Office on April 1, 2008 stated that "the lines of investigation require additional evidence that may be provided by the public in order to further the current investigations or open others.”
Based on these facts, the petitioner alleged the violation of the rights enshrined in Articles 4, 5, 7, 8.1, 13, and 25 of the American Convention, to the detriment of journalist José Alfredo Jiménez Mota. With respect to the right to personal liberty, the petitioner stated that the alleged victim was deprived of his liberty in an action in which “state and federal public servants allegedly took part, at the behest of drug trafficking organizations in the region.” With regard to the alleged violation of the right to life, the petitioner recalled that, given the time that has elapsed and the insufficiency of the measures taken to find the journalist alive, it is possible that he may have been murdered. In relation to the right to freedom of expression, it alleged that the victim’s disappearance was connected to his work as a journalist—an allegation accepted even by the public authorities in charge of the investigation. It maintained that, in fact, the disappearance was intended to thwart the alleged victim’s journalistic work and, secondly, to impede the work of all journalists in Sonora, who—given the alleged victim’s disappearance and the situation of impunity surrounding the event ever since—decided to stop investigating issues related to drug trafficking. It added that the impunity that has prevailed in this case and the uncertainty of Jiménez Mota’s fate has resulted in harm to the physical, psychological, and emotional welfare of his relatives, and violated their right of access to justice.