This article was first published in El Diario de Ciudad Juárez on 10 June 2014. It has been published without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).
Translator´s Note: The MxJTP is committed to translating articles about torture in Mexico. Along with the four new cases the subject of this article, the El Diario de Juárez also makes reference to the torture of the five people once accused of the 2010 car bomb in Ciudad Juárez. After more than three years in prison, those five torture victims were released in March 2014 – after they were released they interviewed about their experience by journalist Daniela Rea for newspaper El Universal. On a recent visit to Mexico, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – who did not visit Ciudad Juárez – confirmed that torture is “widespread” in the country. And, for over the past decade, AnimalPolítico confirmed that not a single public official has been punished for this serious crime. PT
Torture in Mexico: Human Rights Organization Takes On Another Four Torture Cases from Ciudad Juárez
By Martín Orquiz (El Diario de Ciudad Juárez)
Defense attorneys from the Center for Human Rights Paso del Norte (Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte, CDHPN) have four other cases similar to those accused of extortion and freed after a court agreed Monday that their confessions were obtained under torture.
And, according to the organization’s spokesperon, Carlos Murillo González, another eight case files are under evaluation to determine if they share characteristics required to take on their defense.
Until now, three cases exist where it has been proved that police officers tortured people to “confess” their participation in various criminal acts. Among these are the cases of five border residents who were accused of detonating a car bomb in 2012 but who were later accused of carrying arms, drug possession and of links to organized crime.
The fourth case was not publicised to the same extent, according to the spokesperson, but it did share the same characteristics as the others: those accused were young men living in neighborhoods on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, tortured to admit their participation in criminal activities.
Murillo González added that these cases all share various features: the alleged perpetrators were taken from their homes by police officers from different forces but their reports state the arrest took place elsewhere and under different conditions.
In the cases currently under discussion, Carlos Murillo expects them to be successful because each undergoes a rigorous selection process before the CDHPN takes on their defense.
The CDHPN spokesperson referred to brothers Juan Antonio and Jesús Iván Figueroa Gómez who, along with Misael Sánchez Frausto, have been imprisoned on charges of extortion for two years and five months. However, a court has annulled the evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor, determining that it was obtained through torture.
Another person accusd in the same case, the underage brother of the Figueroa Gómez was declared innocent for lack of proof in August 2013. All of these accused were arrested on 18 January 2012.
As recently as last March, the Federal Attorney General (PGR) withdrew the charges against the five men arrested and accused of involvement in detonating the 2010 car bomb.
Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were freed after more than three and a half years in prison.
These five men tested positive for torture under the Istanbul Protocol, a diagnostic tool used to assess if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.
Newspaper sources establish that on their arrest they were accused of organized criminal membership, crimes against the health code for possession of marijuana, and having firearms reserved exclusively for the Armed Forces.
Murillo González mentioned that these cases have a documented modus operandi by police: officers arrive at homes and detain men whom they consider belong to gangs.
“Those arrested are young and poor, that’s the way the police works,” he added.
In regards accusations of torture used for self-incrimination, Murillo González said that another four cases are still pending and another eight are in a CDHPN review process: each case is submitted to a selection process that can take several months to see if the human rights organization can take on their defense or not.
Among the people that the CDHPN is currently defending are those accused of extortion, robbery and belonging to organized crime.
Yet there are still many others who come to the CDHPN to request information, looking for help, Murillo González says. These people often decide not to continue with their cases because they are subject to police violence, receive threats, and refuse to go further. The CDHPN only acts when those affected want to file a formal complaint.
“They come for help but they don’t want to follow any further steps. But we’ve been able to put together a systematic view of the way the police work, they way they attack certain social groups, mostly against youth from poor neighborhoods,” he said.
The police officers, he added, arrest somebody and force them through illegal means to say who their accomplices were, then forcing them to identify them.
“At any hour of the day or night they invade their homes and remove the youth who are implicated. Then they use torture to make them confess, and this practice is something we frequently see,” he specified.
Murillo González, who is a sociologist, mentioned that on average each week about two or three people seek out psychological assistance because they have been experiencing threats or torture by the police. They tend to ask for help but then they don’t go any further.
There is no set protocol for the cases that the CDHPN accepts, but they do share the following features: the affected come from a vulnerable group and, if torture occurred, the CDHPN reviews the testimony to see if they coincide with the facts and they even investigate the person’s trustworthiness.
“We are accused of defending criminals, but we defend human dignity,” Murillo González emphasized during the interview. “It falls to the authorities to prove what the accused did; to us they are innocent.”
Journalist Martín Orquiz reports for El Diario de Ciudad Juárez. This article was first published with the title, “Defiende organización otros 4 casos de tortura,” and is available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-06-10_b9a41638/defiende-organizacion-otros-4-casos-de-tortura/.
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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.