(New York) - Mexican federal prosecutors should immediately open a thorough and impartial investigation into the raid by federal police on the office of the human rights organization Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte in Ciudad Juarez, Human Rights Watch said. Approximately 20 federal police officers broke into the office at about 8:30 p.m. on June 5, 2011, searched files, broke windows and damaged other parts of the office.
Staff members of the organization were not in the office at the time of the raid, and were notified of the incursion by neighbors, who took down the identification numbers of five police units involved. Staff of the organization told Human Rights Watch that they saw the raid as retribution and harassment for documenting cases of alleged abuse by federal police. The official human rights ombudsman for the state of Chihuahua told Human Rights Watch that federal police authorities conceded that officers who took part in the raid did not have search warrants to enter the office.
"Warrantless searches violate citizens' basic right to privacy," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "They can be especially harmful when they target human rights defenders, because they create a climate of intimidation that deters people from denouncing abuses. Federal authorities should send a clear message that such raids are unacceptable by holding accountable the officers who took part."