Torture and ill-treatment in Mexico is out of control, with a 600% rise in the number of reported cases in the past decade, according to a major new report published by Amnesty International today.
There were 1,505 cases of torture and other ill-treatment reported to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission last year, six times more than in 2003, with the incidence of torture increasing dramatically following the launch of the government’s “war on drugs” in 2006.
The report points out that almost nobody has been brought to justice for committing torture - during the period 2006-13 Mexico’s Attorney General opened 1,219 torture investigations but there have been only seven successful convictions for torture in the federal courts. Amnesty has launched a new campaign
calling on the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to urgently address the issue of torture.
Amnesty’s 74-page report - Out of control: torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico
- focuses on cases like that of Ángel Amílcar Colón Quevedo, a black Honduran man who was tortured by members of the police and the military in the Mexico-US border city of Tijuana. Ángel Colón was beaten, asphyxiated using a plastic bag, stripped, forced to perform humiliating acts like licking the shoes of other detainees, and subjected to racist verbal abuse. He remains in prison awaiting trial, having been charged on the basis of a statement made under torture, and Amnesty considers him a prisoner of conscience.
In another case, Claudia Medina Tamariz, a mother-of-three from the city of Veracruz, was tortured by naval marines who bound and blindfolded her before subjecting her to beatings, electric shocks and sexual assault, while also leaving her tied to a chair for hours in searing afternoon heat. At one point the marines also wrapped Medina in plastic before further beatings, a technique designed to minimise visible bruising from the abuse. In June, Amnesty campaigners in London re-enacted the “wrapped in plastic” torture technique outside the Mexican embassy (photos available). Embassy officials have promised to raise the case with their counterparts in Mexico.
Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas said:
“The shocking rise in the use of torture in Mexico means the threat of ill-treatment hangs heavy over the heads of every person in the country.
“Amnesty’s own survey found 64% of Mexican citizens are afraid that they would be tortured if detained by the authorities.
“It is time to radically overhaul the investigation of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. The Mexican authorities must also ensure that the evidence gathered by independent medical experts can be recognised in judicial proceedings.”
Despite legal prohibition, the criminal justice system in Mexico still accepts evidence obtained as a result of arbitrary detention and torture, said Amnesty, meaning that torture is effectively incentivised and also that unfair trials and unsafe convictions are rife. Investigations into torture allegations are inadequate, with the Federal Attorney General’s Office investigations procedure often falling well short of international standards on torture investigations. Despite the shortcomings, prosecutors and judges rely on these flawed official investigations and refuse to accept other independent evidence.
The report identifies a series of measures that must be taken to prevent, investigate and punish torture, starting with an acknowledgement by the government of the scale of torture and a public commitment to combating it.
Note to editors
The Out of control report is the first in a series of five country reports to be released as part of Amnesty’s global Stop Torture campaign, launched in May.
Amnesty has launched