Mexico must face up and investigate widespread torture after scathing UN report

Photo: Juan E. Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment © Amnesty International

A new United Nations report detailing how torture is widespread among Mexico’s police and security forces must prompt the authorities to address this sickening practice once and for all, said Amnesty International today.

The report from Juan E. Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, was presented to the UN Human Rights Council today. It outlines how officials in Mexico often fail to investigate the complaints of torture victims and forensic doctors working for the government often ignore signs of torture.

This vital and scathing report from a top UN expert on torture highlights a culture of impunity and brutality that we have been campaigning about for years. President Enrique Peña Nieto cannot possibly plead ignorance on this issue. Instead, he must accept and act on all the UN recommendations laid out in the Special Rapporteur’s report.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director Amnesty International.

“Police and soldiers have regularly turned to torture to punish or extract false confessions or information from detainees in its so-called War on Drugs. Frequently, victims are forced to sign declarations under torture and in many cases are convicted solely on the basis of those statements. When medical forensic examinations are practised, they usually fall short of international standards.”

Amnesty International is calling for the government to ensure that forensic officials provide prompt, impartial and thorough examinations to anyone who alleges torture. It is also calling on the authorities to accept forensic reports by independent experts as valid evidence in court cases.

“The investigations into allegations of torture in Mexico are riddled with flaws. Internationally agreed guidelines such as the Istanbul Protocol on how to investigate torture are routinely ignored and often victims have to wait months or years to be examined. Documenting torture is the first step to break the wall of impunity,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

In recent months Amnesty International has campaigned for justice for Ángel Colón and Claudia Medina, both of whom were tortured to extract false confessions, in separate incidents.

Ángel Colón was asphyxiated, humiliated and beaten by soldiers while detained at a military base. It took five years for Ángel to be given a proper medical forensic examination into his torture claims. It was conducted by an independent forensic expert after the authorities failed to take action.

Claudia Medina was tortured with sexual violence at the hands of marines. The authorities have been reluctant to investigate her allegations, and the government made it practically impossible for her to access the official forensic service. The only forensic evidence of her torture comes from two independent examinations.

After the long process I had to go through I felt the need to become a human rights activist, to show that I’m not a criminal, as authorities portrayed me. I will not allow even one more woman to be tortured in Mexico.

Claudia Medina, talking to Amnesty International.

On 3 March, Mexico appointed Arely Gómez González as the new Federal Attorney General.

“Arely Gómez González has the opportunity to take a strong stance on torture. She must ensure victims have access to adequate forensic examinations by official experts who are autonomous from the Federal Attorney General’s Office, as the UN has pointed out today,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

More information:
In September 2014, Amnesty International issued the report, Out of control: Torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico exposing a serious rise of torture and other ill-treatment and a prevailing culture of tolerance and impunity. This report is part of Amnesty International ongoing global campaign Stop Torture.

Mexico must obey UN recs & ensure independence of forensic staff examining torture survivors #StopTorture