Report comes after activists raised torture during President Peña Nieto’s visit to Britain
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 frequently fail to investigate torture victims’ complaints, and how government-employed forensic doctors often ignore signs of torture.
Last week, ahead of a visit to the UK by the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, Amnesty activists took a 14,000-signature petition to the Mexican embassy in London - delivered in a giant piñata
(photos available) - which called on the president to urgently address the issue of torture. During the visit UK politicians, including the Prime Minister David Cameron, gave assurances that the UK government had itself raised human rights issues with the visiting Mexican president.
In September Amnesty published a 74-page report - Out of control: torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico
- which showed that there has been a six-fold increase in the number of reported torture cases in Mexico in the past decade. Amnesty is calling on the Mexican 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.
Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas said:
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Ángel Colón and Claudia Medina
In recent months Amnesty has campaigned for justice for Ángel Colón and Claudia Medina, both of whom - in separate incidents - were tortured to extract false confessions.
Ángel was asphyxiated, humiliated and beaten by soldiers while detained at a military base. It took five years for Colón 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 extremely reluctant to investigate her allegations, and the government has made it practically impossible for her to access the official forensic service. The only forensic evidence of her torture comes from two independent examinations. Medina told Amnesty:
“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 the authorities portrayed me. I will not allow even one more woman to be tortured in Mexico.”
On 3 March Mexico appointed Arely Gómez González as the new Federal Attorney General. Erika Guevara-Rosas said:
“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.”
Amnesty’s written statement to the UN Human Rights Council is available here