US Asks for Extension in Immigrant Death Case

By Alexandra Mendoza

The U.S. government failed to respond within the three-month period to a request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to investigate the death of Mexican national Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, which took place seven years ago in the San Ysidro deportation area.

In May, the international organization accepted the case and set a three-month period, which ended on August 10, so that the federal government could respond to the allegations.

Therefore, the State Department, which takes requests on behalf of the U.S. government before the commission, requested an extension until October 12, according to Jennifer Gabris, spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Hernandez Rojas, father of five U.S. Citizens, died on June 2010 after receiving electric shocks and being beaten by a dozen CBP agents in a case evidenced in two eyewitness videos.

The lack of a response worried human rights activists and relatives of the Mexican who took the case to this international organization in 2015, after the Justice Department closed the investigation considering that there was not sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the officers involved in Hernandez Rojas’ death.

The Commission has no authority to force the government to impose sanctions on agents, but could issue a series of recommendations to prevent cases of excessive use of force at the border.

“It does not have the power to prosecute or imprison, much less prosecute a state,” Christian Ramírez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition said.

“But (the Commission) has a very important platform on an international level to denounce the contempt and lack of responsibility from the U.S. government in its obligation to safeguard international rights in (America),” he added.

If a response is not issued before the requested extension, it would be the first time the U.S. ignores a request by this international organization, according to activists.

“Our government owes Anastasio’s family an explanation of why this case was not investigated properly and why it failed to prosecute the officers who killed Anastasio,” denounced Roxanna Altholz, who represents Hernandez Rojas’ relatives before the Commission.

“If the U.S. is serious in addressing human rights violations in the world, it should govern itself under the same standards at home,” Altholz added.

Last March, the U.S. government agreed to compensate the children of Hernandez Rojas with a million dollars to end the administrative complaint against the officers involved in the incident.

Nevertheless, the family insists that it will seek justice and that what happened is clarified.

“We will keep looking for answers and justice,” emphasized María Puga, Hernandez Rojas’ widow.

“I have much hope that we will find justice, all the proof is there, all the arguments are there, that the government is ignoring this is because of something, I think they feel guilty.”

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