Mexico City prosecutors had concluded that Digna Ochoa, who was shot dead in her office in October 2001, had killed herself. But Wednesday’s report stated that detectives investigating the lawyer’s death had committed dozens of errors, mishandling evidence and failing to report crucial facts.
“I can’t say whether or not there was a deliberate cover-up,” commission President Emilio Alvarez said at a news conference. “But I can say there were clear signs of neglect, inefficiency and errors in the investigation.”
The report, based on eight months of research, drew no conclusions about whether Ochoa, 38, had killed herself or had been slain. Ochoa’s family and their attorneys insist that she was murdered.
Ochoa’s death drew international attention, coming in President Vicente Fox’s first year, who had promised to clean up Mexico’s tainted human rights record.
She had been recognized by Amnesty International and other organizations for her work in exposing human rights abuses by Mexican police officers and soldiers. She reported receiving death threats during the last six years of her life.
A note left by her body threatened other human rights workers. But prosecutors suggested Ochoa may have deliberately made her death seem like a murder in order to turn herself into a martyr.
Ochoa’s family and their lawyers say there is overwhelming evidence against the suicide theory.
She died from two bullet wounds, one in the leg and one in the head. The lawyers said it would have been strange for someone killing herself to shoot herself in the leg.
The body also had signs of bruising, signaling that she may had been beaten before she had been shot, said Jesus Ochoa.
Reports of the bruising had been left out of police reports on the murder, according to commission president Alvarez.
Mexico City authorities responded to Wednesday’s report with mixed signals.
Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said his administration would consider reopening the investigation.
“We will work until the families and friends are satisfied,” Lopez Obrador said. “We have nothing to hide.”
However, the capital’s chief prosecutor, Bernardo Batiz, told reporters the investigation was definitively closed.
Activists said the investigation into Ochoa’s death is a test case for the Fox administration’s commitment to human rights.