Inter-American Commission Hears Landmark Case of Killing by US Border Patrol

For the primary time, the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights has agreed to listen to an extrajudicial killing case involving violence dedicated by U.S. regulation enforcement. The Fee is a physique of the Group of American States, which incorporates the USA. It considers circumstances involving torture, massacres, extrajudicial killings and disappearances within the Americas.

On Could 28, 2010, Anastasio Hernández Rojas, a 42-year-old long-time San Diego resident and father of 5, was crossing the border from Mexico into the USA when he was apprehended and tortured by U.S. Customs and Border Safety (CBP) brokers. He died within the hospital a couple of days later from his accidents. With a view to cowl up their crimes, the brokers tried to destroy proof and create a false narrative that portrayed them because the victims and Rojas because the aggressor.

After being taken to a detention middle, brokers used escalating drive towards Rojas, though he was unarmed and injured. “CBP brokers punched, kicked, dragged, Tased, hogtied, and denied Anastasio medical consideration,” his household alleged within the complaint they filed towards the USA within the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights. “Post-mortem stories confirmed that Anastasio suffered intensive accidents whereas in custody, together with bruising and abrasions on his face and physique, 5 damaged ribs, and hemorrhaging of inner organs.” He had a coronary heart assault, went into cardiac arrest and suffered mind injury, which finally led to his loss of life. Each post-mortem stories dominated Rojas’s loss of life a murder.

In a 2019 interview, Rojas’s widow Maria de Jesús Puga recalled listening to the video recording of her husband calling for assist and begging for mercy. “Once I heard his voice, he was actually screaming in ache. I had by no means heard a lot ache. He by no means screamed like that, he by no means cried,” she mentioned.

“My household is destroyed, my household won’t ever be the identical once more,” Puga testified on the November 4 hearing earlier than the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights. She informed the commissioners that her “complete household, we’ve got all been bearing this ache, 12 years, 12 years of ache and anguish not figuring out why, why they killed my husband.”

Puga’s son Fabian, who was 12 when his father was killed, has been “stuffed with trauma and ache … the one factor he hears are the cries of his father,” Puga testified. Her daughter Yeimi, who was 20 on the time her dad was killed, said she feels “[t]otal disrespect…. I simply felt like they only spit on my household. That’s simply how I really feel, so disrespected.”

Rafael Barriaga, a Mexican immigration official who witnessed CBP officers beating and tasering Rojas, told the commissioners, “I by no means thought I’d ever see in on a regular basis that I used to be there as an officer. They dragged this individual alongside the bottom, they have been rolling him like he was a barrel, they weren’t the slightest bit involved concerning the ache.”

Barriaga didn’t see Rojas do something to hurt or threaten the brokers. He was “completely not” a risk to the officers, Barriaga testified. Not one of the brokers summoned medical help till after that they had used the Taser a number of occasions and seen that Rojas was unresponsive, Barriaga famous. “He was humiliated, he was crushed, he was insulted,” Barriga mentioned. “They tased him in numerous elements of his physique, inflicting seizures, to enter seizures, convulsions.”

Eyewitnesses informed the brokers to cease beating Rojas, in accordance with Barriaga. “That’s sufficient,” they mentioned. “He’s not an animal.”

In 2011, the household filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court docket towards the USA authorities for wrongful loss of life and civil rights violations. After a protracted delay, the federal government agreed to pay the household $1 million to settle the case in 2017.

Earlier than the civil settlement, the district court docket decide found that the witness testimony and video recordings “strongly counter the officers’ testimony through the top of the altercation.” The decide concluded that “[t]he sheer variety of officers obtainable on the scene demonstrates reasonably strongly that there was no objectively affordable risk to the protection of anybody aside from Anastasio.”

In November 2015, after a five-year investigation, the U.S. Division of Justice (DOJ) announced it will not carry federal legal costs towards the officers accountable. Puga doesn’t understand why the DOJ refused to cost the officers when “movies clearly present how they assassinated my husband, how they murdered him.”

U.S. Violations of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man

The household filed their grievance towards the U.S. within the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights in March 2016. It alleged a number of violations of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, to which the USA is a celebration, as a member of the Group of American States.

Allegations within the grievance embody violation of the prohibition towards torture (Articles I, XXV & XXVI); violation of the proper to life and liberty (Articles I & XXV); failure to analyze, prosecute and supply full reparations (Articles I & XVIII); violation of the household’s proper to non-public integrity (Articles I & XXVI); and violation of the proper to equality earlier than the regulation and the prohibition towards discrimination (Articles I & II).

“It is a landmark case as a result of it reveals an extreme use of drive and an absence of accountability, which has had a destructive affect on Mexicans,” the federal government of Mexico said in a press release commending the fee for taking the case.

On the November 5 hearing, the USA refused to contest the deserves of the household’s grievance. It requested the commissioners to dismiss the case as a result of the household had acquired a civil settlement from the U.S. authorities, however the DOJ’s refusal to carry legal costs towards the offending officers.

However beforehand, on July 23, 2020, the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights ruled that the grievance was admissible though the household had acquired a settlement from the U.S. authorities. The Inter-American Fee wrote, “[T]he legal accountability of the perpetrators of torture or extrajudicial killing is of a essentially completely different authorized nature, as is in flip the worldwide accountability of the State for violation of its human rights obligations.”

The Inter-American Fee on Human Rights found that the household had established a prima facie case of violations of the American Declaration of Human Rights and Duties of Man linked to the torture and killing of Anastasio Hernández Rojas.

In an affidavit in help of the household’s grievance, former Assistant Commissioner of Customs and Border Safety Inner Affairs Workplace, James F. Tomsheck, explained how CBP brokers mislead cowl up their unlawful use of drive:

It was normal follow for Border Patrol to defend incidents in use of drive, to all the time make it seem that it was justified. This was continuously performed by distorting or falsifying info that justified use of drive. Border Patrol continuously tried to spin incidents involving use of drive that led to loss of life.

CBP brokers “see themselves as members of a ‘paramilitary group’ and troopers ‘on the entrance line’ of a struggle towards legal organizations and terrorism,” mentioned a former deputy assistant commissioner for CBP inner affairs, describing the tradition of impunity that permeates CBP.

“CBP is essentially the most highly effective, most abusive, and least accountable regulation enforcement company within the nation,” Andrea Guerrero, government director of Alliance San Diego, which represents the Rojas household, informed Truthout. “Since Anastasio’s loss of life, practically 250 extra individuals have died in an encounter with border brokers, and no agent has been held accountable,” Guerrero added. “The truth is, within the close to 100-year historical past of Border Patrol, no agent has ever been convicted for killing somebody.”

The Border Patrol Is Rooted in White Supremacy

The U.S. Border Patrol was based in 1924 in response to white supremacists’ fears that the “open-border coverage with Mexico was hastening the ‘mongrelization’ of the USA,” Greg Grandin wrote in The Intercept. White supremacists quickly assumed management of the Border Patrol and made it a “frontline instrument of race vigilantism.” They recruited members from the Ku Klux Klan and the then-violent Texas Rangers.

“The dehumanization of immigrants that the CBP instills in its brokers is a follow that encourages brokers to perpetuate the abhorrent racist therapy of immigrants beneath their accountability,” the Berkeley Middle on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Legislation wrote in an amicus brief within the help of the household.

Guerrero mentioned that the usage of drive by border brokers is growing, with a mean of three incidents a day, and little to no accountability. “Given the dimensions of the company, the dimensions of abuse, and the dimensions of impunity, CBP poses the best risk to human rights in the USA,” Guerrero charged.

“Because the Anastasio case factors out, the abuse and impunity in the USA are endemic to a justice system designed to guard regulation enforcement, not the communities they’re sworn to serve,” 208 social justice organizations wrote in a letter to the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights in October.

Of their case earlier than the Inter-American Fee, the household is asking the fee to seek out that the USA violated the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. It requests that the fee instruct the USA to: conduct a full investigation of Rojas’s killing; conform its use-of-force insurance policies to its obligations beneath the American Declaration; enact laws that criminalizes torture dedicated inside the USA; enact laws that prohibits the U.S. Border Patrol from internally investigating incidents involving loss of life or severe bodily damage; reform the key and one-sided grand jury system, which does the bidding of the prosecutor, who is commonly beholden to regulation enforcement; publicly acknowledge and apologize for violating Rojas’s and his household’s human rights; present well being and academic help to the household; and compensate the household for ethical damages and injury to their life plans.

“Now could be the second for the American public and the world of countries to ask the onerous questions on why border brokers have been in a position to get away with a lot for thus lengthy, abusing and killing its personal residents in addition to migrants and vacationers from everywhere in the globe. Now could be the time for the Inter-American Fee to carry the USA to account for its actions,” legal professional Guerrero wrote in her e-mail to Truthout.

Puga informed the commissioners that her household will discover peace provided that justice is completed. “There’s no peace with out justice,” she mentioned. “There isn’t a peace.”

The fee’s resolution is anticipated someday subsequent yr.