Mexico: Torture still widely used by state, says report

The organisation is calling on the Mexican authorities urgently to tackle the use of torture and review the many unsound cases where torture-based evidence has led to a conviction.

The new report reveals numerous cases of unfair trials, where the criminal justice system has failed to provide redress. This goes against the fair trials procedures that are required by international standards, which the Mexican government has ratified.

An Amnesty International spokesperson said: 'Police are torturing people into confessing to serious crimes and these confessions are then accepted as evidence in court. This goes against the most fundamental principles of justice. People have a right to effective redress under international human rights law, and convicting people on the basis of forced confessions denies them this right.

'The federal government has acknowledged the continuing use of torture. But flaws in the Mexican judicial system are leading to impunity for torturers and encouraging the continuation of this barbaric practice.

'The authorities must tackle not only the ongoing use of torture, but also the legacy of its use which resulted in many unsound convictions. There must be an independent review of these cases and a thorough reform of the judicial system.'

Case Study

Brothers Enrique and Adrián Aranda Ochoa were arrested in June 1996 and forced, after several hours of torture at the hands of judicial police, to sign a confession they were not allowed to read. They were told that if they did not ratify their confession before the judge, their families would suffer the consequences.

Despite medical evidence of torture, their confessions were used to convict and sentence them to 50 years in prison. Over six years later, an arrest warrant issued against one of the policemen involved in their torture has not been acted on. The brothers remain in prison awaiting the outcome of their final appeal.

While the acts of torture mentioned in the report took place under previous governments, the present authorities are responsible for ensuring that these victims have access to effective redress. Nevertheless, Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture, with more recent cases documented in Oaxaca and Ciudad Juarez.

Amnesty International's report also revealed further flaws in the judicial system, such as:

  • arbitrary detentions;
  • suspects not being brought before a judge within the legal time frame;
  • poor legal representation;
  • inadequate forensic examinations to substantiate signs of torture and insufficient judicial supervision of procedures.

The present administration has made a number of important commitments to tackle these issues. The proposed Reforma del Estado and the UN Technical Assistance Programme provide a vital framework for developing and agreeing policies to this effect at the federal, state and municipal level.

Background

The document is the latest in a series of reports published by Amnesty International as part of its long-term campaign against torture and impunity in Mexico. It can be found online at: http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/AMR410072003?Open&of=COUNTRIES\MEXICO

In 2001 Amnesty International published:

  • Justice betrayed - torture in the judicial system /i> that examined some of the main reasons behind the failure of the Mexican authorities to effectively address and put a stop to torture, and
  • Torture cases - calling out for justice /i> documenting several cases of torture and ill-treatment that reflected many of the key issues the government needs to address.

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