This article was published on 24 April 2014 in AnimalPolítico. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).
Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: A Decade Without a Single Public Official Guilty of the Crime of Torture
By Tania L. Montalvo (ANIMALPOLÍTCO)
– Investigations Exist but no Punishment for Public Officials in either Military or Civilian Jurisdictions
Over the past decade — and in response to public information requests — figures provided by the Federal Attorney General (PGR) and the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) show that not a single official has been published for the crime of torture, neither in civil nor military jurisdictions.
The PGR’s General Inspector confirmed that from 2002 to 2012 there have only been 39 preliminary investigations into torture and that there have been no criminal proceedings or warrants issued.
According to the Military Prosecutor, since 2002 – and until the 2012 Supreme Court decision to impose limits on military jurisdiction – there were 142 preliminary investigations for “violence causing torture” and another 821 similar proceedings for “violence causing wounds” which might include torture. But of these 963 investigations, only six went to trial, and resulted in no criminal punishment.
The Ministry of Defense responded to a request for public information presented by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Guerrero.
Notwithstanding these figures, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed last October that between 2006 and 2012 there have been at least 7,253 cases of torture. SEDENA and the PGR are the federal agencies with most complaints against them for torture.
According to information from the CNDH, between 2000 and 2012 the Army was responsible for 75 cases of torture and 3,580 cases of cruel treatment. Meanwhile, the PGR is responsible for 34 cases of torture and 2,025 cases of cruel treatment.
No Protocols, No Effective Investigations
When Tlachinollan met with Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – who is visiting Mexico from 21 April until 2 May to evaluate the crime of torture in Mexico – the human rights organization explained that Mexico does not have protocols to avoid torture during detention. Nor does Mexico hold investigations as a way to protect victims.
SEDENA responded to another of Tlachinollan’s public information requests by saying that either protocols or mechanisms to help safeguard the physical integrity of the detained “do not exist.”
The PGR, for its part, confirmed that in torture investigations it applies a specialized Medical/Psychological Checklist, an adaptation of the Istanbul Protocol, an internationally validated test to determine if a person was the victim of torture and cruel treatment.
From 2002 to 2012, the PGR applied the Checklist on 302 occasions and in 42.3% of those cases it could determine “the existence of wounds possible derived from torture and/or mistreatment.” No penal sentences resulted against those responsible.
Civil society organizations have demanded that the Attorney General allow independent, expert application of the Istanbul Protocol, something the PGR rejects. Civil society organizations say that the Attorney General is not an impartial judge of whether its agents have committed torture.
Using the CNDH’s figures, Tlachinollan has pointed out that during Felipe Calderón’s period in office (2006 to 2012) complaints for human rights violations rose 453 percent, with a 235 percent increase specifically for the crime of torture.
Mexico is party to various international instruments to combat and abolish torture, such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman, Degrading, or Cruel Treatment. Mexico’s Constitution also prohibits these practices under Articles 19, 20, and 22.
Journalist Tania L. Montalvo reports for AnimalPolítico. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Diez años sin un solo culpable por el delito de tortura,” available at: http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/04/diez-anos-sin-un-solo-culpable-por-el-delito-de-tortura/#ixzz2ztSYK3aH.
Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.