Mexico: Military abuses – case studies

Saúl Becerra Reyes On 21 October 2008, witnesses watched on as 31 year-old Saúl Becerra Reyes and five other men were arrested by soldiers in a car-wash in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state.

Five days later, the five men arrested with Saúl were transferred from a military base to the Federal Attorney General’s Office and charged with drug and firearm offences. The authorities never acknowledged that Saul had been detained.

Several official complaints were made about Saúl ‘s disappearance but none led to an effective investigation by the authorities.. Despite a petition from a federal judge, civilian and military authorities repeatedly denied knowledge of Saul’s whereabouts.

Saúl’s body was found in March 2009. His death certificate said he died one day after his detention of a cerebral hemorrhage from head trauma. No further autopsy was carried out.

The federal judge closed the case and passed it to the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office to be investigated as an ordinary murder with no reference to evidence of military involvement.

25 police officers tortured Between 21 and 27 March 2009, 24 male and one female officer of the municipal police of Tijuana, Baja California were arbitrary detained at the military base of the 28th Infantry Battalion of the 2nd Military Zone in Tijuana, known as Aguaje de la Tuna.

During their 41 days of detention in the military base, they were not brought before a judge and were denied access to lawyers of their choice. On 7 May they were suddenly transferred to a federal prison in Tepic, Nayarit state. There they were charged with participating in organized crime and detained on remand.

According to all 25 police officers, during their initial detention they were subject to continuous torture and other ill-treatment by military officials trying to obtain false confessions to criminal offences, information implicating other police officers or signatures for unseen statements.

“They taped up my eyes and hands; the tape cut the skin of my hands, I couldn’t feel my fingers, then they rolled me in a blanket and began to beat me all over my body, between 6 men they beat me for an hour, I lost all sense of time; on 6 occasions I lost consciousness, as I wouldn’t sign what they wanted they kept on hitting me, I don’t know for how long (..) they took off my boots and put my feet in a container of water, then they put in electric cables and that went on for hours (..) they put electric cables on my testicles (..) I felt like they were going to kill me (..) I couldn’t take any more, I signed with my eyes taped up. Today I still can’t feel anything in my right hand.”

On 24 April, relatives of the police officers filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission’s (CNDH) office in Tijuana. No measures were taken to visit the detained men or prevent further torture. On 18 May CNDH officials from Mexico City visited the men in prison in Tepic to gather evidence of torture. The CNDH investigation continues.

A habeas corpus petition in Tijuana resulted in a federal court obtaining medical records from a private hospital demonstrating that one of the detainees had received emergency medical treatment on injuries sustained while in military custody, including broken ribs, suffered while in military detention.

On 1 June relatives of the victims filed a criminal complaint with the Baja California State Attorney’s Office for torture and arbitrary detention. No information is available on progress in the investigation and no full or independent medical examination of the detainees appears to have been conducted.