In the majority of these cases soldiers and police tampered with crime scenes, either to falsely present victims as armed aggressors or to cover up their excessive use of force. And in some cases, investigations strongly suggest that security forces manipulated crime scenes to present the impression that extrajudicial killings were executions perpetrated by rival drug cartels. The rising prevalence of torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other serious abuses is reflected in official statistics. For example, the commission received complaints of human rights abuses committed by soldiers against civilians from to ; the number increased to 4, complaints in the to period.
And while the commission issued five recommendations concluding federal authorities had committed torture from to , it issued twenty-five from to In a similar vein, the number of investigations opened by civilian and military prosecutors into crimes committed by security forces against civilians has increased significantly in recent years. According to the Army, for example, military prosecutors opened investigations into crimes committed by soldiers against civilians in , in , and in Finally, international human rights institutions, such as the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, as well as human rights defenders and civil society groups, have also received rising numbers of complaints of human rights violations.
All of this evidence, together with the findings detailed in this report, point to a continuing rise in human rights violations by security forces. The majority of the victims in the cases documented by Human Rights Watch were young men who came from lower or working-class backgrounds. Many had families and small children. They had a variety of jobs: they were car mechanics and taxi drivers, factory and construction laborers. The victims also included police officers, women and children, and some white-collar professionals and individuals with upper class backgrounds, including a university professor and an architect.
There appeared to be no independent evidence to corroborate these coerced statements and it is not clear what evidence established reasonable suspicion about the individuals prior to their detention. To the contrary, the evidence in several of the cases we researched strongly suggests that authorities erred in targeting these particular individuals. For example, court records establish that a victim of torture who was accused of kidnapping a civilian was not even in Mexico when the alleged kidnapping took place.
In other cases, victims have been vindicated by courts, or government bodies have issued statements affirming their innocence. We wish to emphasize that we are not in a position to determine what factors existed in each case that may have led these victims to be targeted by the security forces. But even assuming that some of the victims whose accounts are provided in this report were criminally culpable, the abuse and litany of serious violations to which they were subjected are unacceptable in any circumstances, categorically prohibited under international law, and must be investigated and punished.
Military and civilian prosecutors consistently fail to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into cases where evidence suggests civilians have been subjected to grave abuses. Human Rights Watch documented systematic flaws in the investigations into torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings which prevent soldiers and police from being held accountable. The Istanbul Protocol is an internationally recognized set of guiding principles to assess the physical and psychological condition of a potential victim of torture—and Mexico has committed to apply it in cases of suspected ill-treatment.
Yet Federal and state justice officials rarely follow it. Such failures mean that justice officials do not exclude confessions obtained through torture, nor do they collect evidence that is crucial for prosecuting soldiers and police who use abusive tactics. Instead, justice officials often direct families to police stations and military bases to see if the victim is in their custody, and make them wait several days before registering an official complaint.
Government officials reflexively claim such cases are levantones , or abductions perpetrated by rival cartels, and in many cases accuse victims of having been targeted because they were involved in criminal activities—all prior to conducting an investigation. In the rare instances in which investigations into such cases are opened, justice officials fail to take basic steps such as conducting ballistics tests or questioning the soldiers and police involved.
Furthermore, in more than a dozen cases, families of the victims of killings told Human Rights Watch they had been pressured by the Army to sign settlements agreeing to abandon all efforts to seek criminal punishments for soldiers in exchange for compensation. Nowhere is impunity more pronounced than in the military justice system. In our report, Uniform Impunity , Human Rights Watch documented the lack of impartiality and independence that results when the military investigates itself, and recommended that Mexico reform its Military Code of Justice to ensure that all cases of alleged human rights violations committed by the military against civilians be investigated and prosecuted in the civilian justice system.
Yet the practice remains unchanged, as do the results: complaints of human rights violations continue to be sent to the military justice system, where they still go unpunished. In the five states surveyed for this report, military prosecutors have opened 1, investigations since into human rights violations allegedly committed by soldiers against civilians, according to data obtained through public information requests.
Not a single one of those military investigations across all five states has resulted in a soldier being convicted. Only 15 soldiers were convicted during this period: less than one half of one percent. However, the vast majority of complaints of human rights violations by security forces are never adequately investigated and nearly all alleged drug-related homicides are never prosecuted.
For victims of grave human rights violations, their families, and human rights defenders, such rhetoric and the systematic lack of thorough investigations presents a stark choice. They can investigate crimes themselves, often at considerable risk. Or they can watch as their cases languish in government channels. Those who choose the former find themselves facing daunting obstacles, from harassment and death threats by security forces to seemingly endless bureaucratic excuses and dilatory tactics on the part of their supposed advocates in the justice system.
In many cases, investigators do not even attempt to conceal their collaboration with the officials accused of abuses, or they openly admit their fear or unwillingness to take on cases implicating security forces. Its exercise is not only valuable on its own merits, but is also critical to the effective application of justice, because it ensures that prosecutions are based on evidence rather than biases, which in turn leads to holding the right people accountable for committing crimes. Yet, despite these guarantees, a suspect in Mexico whose rights have been violated by officials seeking to build a criminal case against him often effectively bears twin burdens: he must prove his own innocence while simultaneously proving that his rights were violated by public officials.
The perverse practice in Mexico, however, is that it is victims who are consistently obliged to prove that their rights were violated. Moreover, victims and their relatives are often told that the fact they suffered a human rights violation is proof in itself that they were involved in criminal activity. Some victims of human rights violations may themselves have previously committed crimes. But this does not justify the violation of the fundamental rights of detainees, and the fact that an individual is a criminal suspect should in no way lead authorities to discount his allegations of having been a victim of abuse.
To the contrary, all citizens should benefit from the presumption of innocence, and the state should promptly and impartially investigate all allegations of human rights violations.
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Moreover, as several of the cases in this report demonstrate, there is good reason to believe that a significant portion of people identified as criminal suspects—particularly those in cases where the only evidence against them is a forced confession—are innocent. Serious human rights violations committed by security forces can inflict deep and lasting wounds on victims and their relatives.
Victims of torture told Human Rights Watch they experienced ongoing physical and psychological effects as a result of what they endured. A victim of waterboarding said that for months afterwards he could not bear to take a shower because the water reminded him of his torture. Even drinking liquids was difficult for him. Another victim who was suffocated repeatedly and beaten severely to the head said that since his interrogation he has suffered serious short-term memory loss, incapacitating migraines, and the loss of hearing in one ear.
The trauma and fear generated by grave human rights abuses extends to entire families. He said that since the night of the shooting his family has not returned to the home, because the place is too vivid a reminder of the incident and they do not feel safe living there. The families of the disappeared suffer particularly cruel treatment, deprived of a sense of closure as they wait in vain for news about the fate of a loved one. This cruelty is compounded by government officials who, even when all evidence points to the contrary, accuse their loved ones of having been targeted because they were criminals, and by the hollow efforts of authorities to investigate, which leave relatives feeling dispirited and powerless.
For the relatives of victims of killings by security forces, the fact that those responsible are not prosecuted and that victims are usually publicly branded as criminals is a source of ongoing suffering. And like the families of the disappeared, they continue to struggle to learn what happened to their loved ones. In certain cases, such as the killing of two children by soldiers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas and various cases highlighted in this report, the national commission has conducted solid, in-depth investigations, which demonstrate its ability to carry out complex ballistic, forensic, and crime scene analysis, perform expert medical exams in line with the Istanbul Protocol, and conduct skilled interviews.
The national commission has also proven its capacity to marshal its findings into cogent recommendations, which assign responsibility for crimes to government officials and demand criminal investigations. So too have various state commissions carried out thorough investigations into some cases of human rights violations, such as those from Guerrero and Chihuahua cited in this report. In scores of cases, Human Rights Watch found officials from the commissions failed to conduct basic steps to investigate complaints, and either did not open investigations into cases where there was strong evidence of abuses, or closed them prematurely.
Even in cases where the commissions carry out comprehensive investigations, they often undermine the impact of their findings by failing to ensure that their recommendations are implemented. In particular, Human Rights Watch found that the commissions continue to abandon their work on cases when prosecutors open investigations into violations—a practice documented in a previous report by this organization—rather than monitoring the handling of inquiries to ensure that prompt, thorough investigations are undertaken.
This lack of oversight contributes to a climate of impunity, allowing authorities with a track record of committing violations to stay in positions of authority where they may repeat abuses. For example, since , the Guerrero State Human Rights Commission has issued 23 recommendations in which it found that the current chief of the investigative judicial police in northern Guerrero committed abuses, including cases of homicide, torture, and extortion. The same individual was also accused of having participated directly in the torture of a victim interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report.
Finally, the national commission continues to direct recommendations in cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers to the military justice system, virtually guaranteeing impunity. Not only do human rights violations in themselves undermine the rule of law, but they also can be counterproductive in reducing violence, dismantling criminal networks, and building the public confidence in institutions that is critical to effective counternarcotics efforts. The approximately 15, killings allegedly tied to organized crime in , for example, represented an increase of nearly 60 percent from the previous year.
Moreoever, claims by the government that public security operations have been effective in reducing crime in places such as Tijuana are not borne out by the data, which shows that homicides, violent robbery, kidnappings, and extortions remain alarmingly high, despite some ephemeral and modest drops. However, the overall homicide rate provides an incomplete picture of violence in Mexico, because drug-related violence disproportionately affects certain regions more than others. Therefore, a more accurate reading of the severity of the violence can be found by looking at homicide rates in specific states and cities, virtually all of which are trending upwards.
This rise in violence has not been matched by a rise in criminal prosecutions. While security forces have detained tens of thousands of suspected cartel members—the majority allegedly detained in the act of committing a crime in flagrante —only a fraction of these cases have led to investigations, even fewer have resulted in suspects being charged with crimes, and fewer still have led to criminal sentences.
According to the Mexican Constitution, if indeed these killings were all tied to organized crime, federal prosecutors have the power to investigate and prosecute them. The office provided conflicting information as to the number of those cases it was investigating—first reporting it had opened 1, homicide investigations, and three months later saying it had only opened investigations. In these cases, only suspects have been charged. And according to statistics provided to Human Rights Watch by the federal judiciary in response to a public information request, federal judges have only convicted defendants for 22 homicides and other injuries tied to organized crime.
The results at the state level are similarly abysmal. From through the middle of , there were more than 5, deaths related to organized crime in Chihuahua. Pressed as to why convictions are so rare, justice officials offer a range of explanations: an overwhelming caseload; the complexity and danger inherent in building cases tied to organized crime; and the ambiguity as to whether homicides fall within state or federal jurisdiction, among others.
Yet several prosecutors confided to Human Rights Watch that one of the greatest obstacles to effectively investigating and prosecuting such cases is the litany of abuses committed by soldiers and police. Not only do security forces tend to contaminate and manipulate crime scenes, justice officials said, but they also hand over detainees to prosecutors with little more than a confession, which investigators later learn was extracted through beatings, threats, or other violations.
But the confidence upon which cooperation is built must be earned, and many Mexicans do not believe the crimes they report will be adequately investigated, or fear that local law enforcement and justice departments may be infiltrated by organized crime. This distrust is reflected by the low numbers of both human rights violations and crimes that citizens report to authorities. Prosecutors and human rights officials consistently told Human Rights Watch that only a tiny fraction of victims report abuses, due to a combination of fear and lack of confidence in authorities.
And civilians who do not report human rights violations are equally unlikely to report crimes, he added. Meanwhile, national surveys have found that nearly 90 percent of crimes in Mexico go unreported. The lack of reporting, in turn, feeds a cycle of impunity that protects perpetrators and fosters more crime. The most effective way to address the serious human rights violations documented in this report—and deter future violations—is to ensure that soldiers and police who commit abuses are brought to justice.
And the key to holding security forces accountable is conducting prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into allegations of their crimes against civilians. Such investigations do not take place when the military investigates itself. One way Mexico can improve accountability is by ending the practice of transferring cases of alleged human rights violations committed by soldiers to military jurisdiction.
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In the event that a case has been transferred to military jurisdiction in violation of the law, the alleged victim should have recourse to an enforceable legal remedy within the civilian justice system to challenge the transfer. Civilian prosecutors should proactively investigate all cases involving alleged human rights violations by soldiers. Until such a reform is passed and implemented, the federal and state attorneys general should instruct civilian prosecutors and justice officials to end the practice of automatically sending cases in which a member of the military is accused of committing a crime against a civilian to military prosecutors.
Instead, such allegations should be investigated by civilian prosecutors from the moment they are reported, including undertaking the immediate work of interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from crimes scenes. The transfer of cases of alleged military abuses to civilian jurisdiction will not single-handedly resolve the problem of lack of accountability for abuses committed by security forces. As this report shows, the civilian justice system has significant problems of its own, which pose real obstacles to effective investigations.
In spite of these flaws, however, the civilian system is significantly more impartial and independent than its military counterpart. The transfer of such cases to civilian jurisdiction is a necessary first step away from a system in which impunity for soldiers is virtually guaranteed. Mexico passed a largely positive constitutional reform in June to transform the civilian justice system from an inquisitorial, written model, to an adversarial, oral one.
The reform was aimed at affirming the principle of the presumption of innocence and eliminating perverse incentives for law enforcement officers to obtain confessions through torture, among other worthy goals. But implementation of the reform, which authorities have until to complete, has been sluggish, and the changes in law have yet to be translated into changes in practice. The federal and state governments should invest greater resources in implementing the justice reform. This means reforming the justice system concurrently at both federal and state levels to avoid the emergence of two systems operating with conflicting principles.
And it means ensuring that steps are taken to change practices as well as laws, such as by scaling up the training of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, judicial investigative police, and other key officials, as well as by doing more to raise awareness among the public as to how the new system works. In addition, state legislators should abolish counter-reforms that run counter to the spirit and object of the justice reform, while other states should refrain from passing them.
Judges should immediately enforce the constitutional ban on any evidence elicited through coercion or other abuses, eliminating the perverse incentive for police and soldiers to beat confessions out of detainees before handing them over to prosecutors. Judges should make no exceptions to the exclusionary rule banning use of evidence obtained through torture, nor should any jurisprudence be applied that violates the object and spirit of the ban.
In cases where there is any suspicion of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of suspects, judges should instruct prosecutors to immediately open investigations into possible mistreatment. They should order the prompt application of the Istanbul Protocol to alleged victims. In line with internationally recognized legal principles, judges should place the burden of proof on prosecutors to demonstrate that confessions and other forms of evidence were obtained legally, rather than obligating victims to prove that they suffered torture or other abuses.
As this report demonstrates, many of the abuses committed by soldiers and police are perpetrated during unlawful periods of arbitrary detention between when suspects are initially detained and when they are handed over to prosecutors. This occurs when security forces do not immediately transfer detainees to prosecutors as required by law, and hold them incommunicado on military bases, police stations, or in other illegal detention facilities.
The key to preventing abuses that take place in this period is investigating and prosecuting the soldiers and police who fail to immediately transfer detainees to prosecutors. To this end, judges should call for prompt investigations into cases where evidence suggests that a suspect was subject to a period of arbitrary detention, as described above.
Federal and state prosecutors should initiate investigations ex officio when they believe security forces have delayed the transfer of detainees. Nor should detainees ever be held temporarily in these places. In cases where there is evidence detainees are not promptly transferred to prosecutors, security forces should initiate their own investigations through internal affairs bodies to complement criminal investigations, though such administrative investigations should not be seen as a substitute for those conducted by prosecutors.
Meanwhile, the secretaries of the Army and the Navy, the director of the Federal Police, as well as state and municipal police chiefs should issue directives instructing officers under their command to immediately transfer detainees to civilian prosecutors, and state unequivocally that under no circumstances should detainees be held or interrogated on military bases or in police stations. Mexico should abolish the power of arraigo in federal and state legislation, which allows prosecutors, with judicial authorization, to detain individuals for up to 80 days before they are charged with a crime.
The practice amounts to arbitrary detention, is inconsistent with Mexico's due process obligations under international law, and contravenes a decision of the Supreme Court that deemed the practice unconstitutional. Federal and state legislators can also help reduce illegal arrests by abolishing vague laws that give security forces broad powers to detain civilians without warrants, such as the proliferating state flagrancia and halconeo laws.
These laws should be applicable only in exceptional cases when a suspect is caught in the midst of committing a crime or there is evidence he is acting as an informant for criminal gangs. However in practice they are invoked as the basis to detain people with little to no connection to such factual context. Develop protocol for investigating civilian deaths in alleged confrontations with security forces, and pass laws regulating the use of force for Army and law enforcement officers.
All civilian deaths resulting from confrontations with security forces—regardless of whether the victims are allegedly armed men or innocent civilians—should be thoroughly and impartially investigated to determine if state officials used excessive force or carried out extrajudicial executions.
Drawing upon best practices developed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions and other experts, the Mexican government should design a protocol for investigating killings by state officials—including deaths at security checkpoints and in custody, as well as in shootouts—rather than simply accepting the accounts of soldiers and police as fact.
Furthermore, the Army and legislators should draft use of force laws for the Army, federal police, and local police, which draw upon international standards regulating the use of force. And soldiers and police should be trained in how to put these standards into practice. Create national databases to track the disappeared and detainees that are designed to protect against abuses.
Stop the use of rhetoric implying abuse victims are criminals, or that dismisses allegations of abuse before they have been investigated. How civilian and military leaders talk about human rights can have a significant impact on the practices of state officials, as well as the attitudes of the general public. Likewise, they should stop reflexively assuming that victims of torture, killings, and disappearances were all engaged in criminal activity before they were detained.
As part of this shift, security forces and justice officials should stop presenting suspects to the press and accusing them of having committed crimes before they have been tried, which undermines their right to a fair trial. In cases where it is uncertain whether such allegations are true, the commissions should undertake thorough, impartial investigaitons to determine their veracity, rather than placing the burden on victims and their families to provide proof.
The national commission should end the practice of recommending that any alleged human rights violation committed by soldiers against civilians be subject to military jurisdiction. The commissions should also end with the practice of abandoning their work on cases after issuing recommendations. Specifically, officials from the commissions should ensure that civilian prosecutors not only open investigations into abuses, but also conduct prompt and thorough inquiries.
When state actors fail to implement the recommendations, the commissions should actively press for compliance through tools such as calling government officials to account before the Senate for their lack of compliance, a power granted to them by the recently approved constitutional reform.
Finally, in response to the massive deployment of the Army, Navy, and Federal Police in counternarcotics operations, and the subsequent rise in human rights complaints against these forces, the national commission should strongly consider reallocating its resources to place investigative teams in the states where significant numbers of federal security forces have been deployed. The partnership includes an annual human rights dialogue between government officials, and the EU has made a commitment to help advance the rule of law and fundamental rights in Mexico, as well as committed some resources directly to those ends.
Nor has the EU been willing to leverage its growing collaboration with Mexico to influence the government to address its systemic human rights problems. The EU should remedy this oversight by publicly identifying a set of human rights priorities, and set targets toward meeting those goals, such as eliminating the use of torture by police officials or ensuring the systematic application of the Istanbul Protocol. And the EU should direct a meaningful portion of its assistance and advocacy efforts towards achieving these goals, including both carrots should they be met and sticks should they not.
These requirements include investigating and prosecuting military and police officers accused of committing abuses against civilians in the civilian justice system; improving police transparency and accountability; and prohibiting the use of testimony obtained through torture or other ill-treatment. Moreover, Congress should ensure the 15 percent requirements are applied not only to funding directed toward the military, but also toward support and training for the federal, state, and local police—because of their continuing use of torture and other grave violations, and their chronic lack of accountability.
In order for these requirements to be effective, however, they must be enforced. Yet despite clear evidence that the requirements have not been met—including in reports by the US State Department that document the ongoing use of torture, as well as the continued prosecution of soldiers in military courts for human rights abuses—the US has repeatedly released the 15 percent of select funds. In light of the findings of this report, which demonstrate once again that the requirements are not being met, the US should withhold the select funds for the military and police for the forthcoming year.
It should continue to withhold funds until all four of the requirements are met. As a result, the US government should redouble its efforts to halt the illegal flow of weapons into Mexico, as well as put in place public policies that reduce the demand for narcotics in the US.
If implemented, the recommendations outlined above and those laid out in greater detail in the forthcoming chapters will strengthen the protection of human rights in Mexico. All are states where federal, state, and local security forces have been deployed in counternarcotics efforts. In the course of this research, Human Rights Watch conducted more than interviews with a wide array of actors. These included attorneys general, prosecutors, judges, public defenders, law enforcement chiefs, police officers, legislators, national and state human rights officials, victims and their relatives, civil society groups, human rights defenders, scholars, and journalists, among others.
The findings of these interviews were complemented by a range of official statistics obtained by Human Rights Watch. Such statistics were not easy to come by, and in some cases, though not always, there was good reason to doubt their accuracy. Officials routinely took months to respond to basic requests, such as questions regarding the number of public officials who had been convicted for committing human rights violations.
And the responses that were eventually provided—if they were provided at all—were almost always incomplete, or did not correspond to the information solicited. Yet Human Rights Watch had not requested information regarding open investigations, but rather statistics on investigations that had ended in criminal convictions. As such, Human Rights Watch resubmitted the request on August 30, At the time of writing, we still had not received a response.
In some cases, this proved an effective channel of acquiring official data, as citations in this report demonstrate. In others, however, the government bodies to which we directed our requests took months to respond, only to deny our requests on technical grounds or redirect our requests to other bodies, which in turn told us they did not have the information. Meanwhile, the responses we did receive revealed troubling contradictions in official figures.
In a June response, the Army reported that 3, investigations had been opened by military prosecutors into crimes by soldiers against civilians since These documents were most often provided by victims, their lawyers, and local human rights organizations. And these files were supplemented by additional information gathered independently by victims and their families, who often undertook their own investigations in the face of complacency by prosecutors, such as the identification numbers of police or military vehicles involved in crimes against civilians.
In some cases, however, we were hindered in this effort by the unwillingness of certain authorities to meet with us or to provide information with respect to specific cases. In some of the interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, victims, their relatives, and witnesses requested that their names be omitted to protect their identities, out of fear of reprisals; others asked that the cases they shared not be included in the report, driven by similar concerns.
Several state officials who spoke candidly about crimes by fellow authorities also asked that their names be omitted, but permitted us to include the government institutions for which they worked. In such cases we have eliminated the name of the source, as indicated in the relevant citations. All of the security forces involved in counternarcotics operations: the Army, the Navy, the Federal Police, and state, municipal, and judicial investigative police are guilty of having used torture.
Irrespective of geographic location or which branch of the security forces implicated, victims provided consistent accounts of the types of physical and mental torture tactics used on them. They included beatings, asphyxiation with plastic bags, simulated drowning, electric shocks, sexual torture, and death threats or mock executions. A pattern also emerged of the timing of the infliction of torture and the apparent purpose of its use. Most victims were detained arbitrarily under the pretext of being caught in the act of committing a crime in flagrante , or en flagrancia , and then held unlawfully and unacknowledged for hours or days before being handed over to prosecutors.
Mexico has strong domestic legislation to prevent and punish the use of torture, including a comprehensive constitutional reform passed in that was designed to eliminate perverse incentives to obtain confessions by force. As detailed below, Human Rights Watch research found that authorities responsible for preventing torture have been at best passive observers, and at worst active participants, in grave abuses. Repeatedly, we found that both civilian and military prosecutors fail to adequately investigate and prosecute cases in which there is compelling evidence of torture.
Officials rarely apply the Istanbul Protocol, a critical tool for detecting the physical and psychological effects of torture, and routinely fail to conduct basic steps critical to thorough and impartial investigations, such as interviewing victims and collecting evidence. Of the more than cases of torture documented by Human Rights Watch, not a single one has resulted in a state official being convicted for torture—either in the civilian or military justice system. In more than cases of torture we examined, victims across five states and from different professions and social classes described being subjected to similar physical and mental torture techniques.
The most common techniques used by security forces were beatings, asphyxiation using plastic bags or drowning, electric shocks, sexual torture, and death threats or mock executions. Virtually all of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch described several of these tactics being used in succession or simultaneously, compounding their effects. In addition, the majority of victims reported being blindfolded and bound while subjected to these acts, exacerbating their sense of disorientation and vulnerability. As will be seen in later sections, the aim of these tactics was often to elicit information about organized crime groups, as well as to force victims to sign or record confessions incriminating themselves and others.
Victims consistently said that despite their requests they were denied medical treatment after being tortured, exacerbating both their short-term suffering and the long-term injuries sustained by the tactics. This is reflected in the growing number of recommendations issued by the National Human Rights Commission that determined federal officials had committed torture. From to , the commission issued 4 recommendations concluding federal authorities had committed torture, compared to 28 from to Many cases of torture are not reported because of fear.
A principal effect of torture—and often its main objective—is to intimidate the victim into silence. In nearly every case of torture documented by Human Rights Watch, victims said their torturers warned them that they would be tortured again, killed, or that their family members would suffer reprisals if they reported the abuses they had suffered.
Victims are also discouraged from reporting cases of torture by chronic distrust of authorities. They often see justice officials as part of the same abusive apparatus as their torturers, a sentiment that is particularly pronounced in those cases where investigative judicial police or prosecutors have participated in their torture, or were present when it was administered. This sense is reinforced by the treatment victims report receiving when they try to register complaints. Many said they were made to wait hours, if not days, before being attended. Some authorities turned them away.
In other cases, justice officials advised them not to report abuses, saying it would only create more problems for them. Not only does such treatment add to the violations already suffered by victims, but it also sends a clear message that authorities are not committed to thoroughly and impartially investigating such cases. This chronic underreporting is not limited to the crime of torture. National and state human rights commission officials, justice officials, and human rights defenders across Mexico spoke of how fear and distrust is preventing victims from reporting the use of torture in counternarcotics operations.
Better that I keep quiet. The lack of reporting of torture fosters a cycle of impunity. As a result, authorities are not held accountable, and continue to use such abusive tactics. Civilian prosecutors have a critical role to play in preventing torture. They must respect the absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment of detainees and suspects, and avoid any form of collaboration or acquiescence with security forces that use these tactics.
And in those cases where prosecutors suspect torture or other ill-treatment has occurred, they should take immediate action to investigate them thoroughly and impartially. However, as the cases in this chapter demonstrate, Human Rights Watch research shows that prosecutors often fail to fulfill these responsibilities. Even worse, in several cases, victims said prosecutors were present while they were tortured, or used the threat of violence by security forces to pressure them into signing forced confessions.
In several cases, Human Rights Watch found evidence strongly suggesting that prosecutors copied and pasted false confessions from one criminal defendant to another.
For example, Tijuana municipal police officer Ricardo Castellanos was arbitrarily detained and taken to a military base on September 15, , where he said he was beaten, asphyxiated, and given electric shocks while being questioned about his ties to organized crime. Asked to give a statement, Castellanos denied the allegations against him and reported the torture he had suffered at the hands of soldiers.
When he finished, he said, the prosecutor handed him a small piece of paper featuring a list of names. The following day, Castellanos said, soldiers removed him from his cell and dragged him to a room where they asphyxiated him and threatened to kill his family if he did not confess to the crimes they wanted.
Allegations of use of torture and ill-treatment are particularly directed against judicial investigative police, who are in charge of carrying out investigations under the direction of prosecutors. While in theory these police are only supposed to act under the supervision of prosecutors, officials concede that prosecutors wield little control over them and that they often operate autonomously, assuming investigative powers far beyond their mandate, such as taking confessions.
According to her account, they proceeded to search the home and interrogate her and her sons—ages 17, 12, 8, and 6—about a man whose name she did not recognize. When Guevara screamed for the officers to stop, they began to beat her too.
She and her son were then forced into vehicles, where more police officers punched and kicked them repeatedly over a minute drive to the police station. She said the officers threatened to kill her son if they did not provide them with information about a woman who had disappeared. Since the Guerrero State Human Rights Commission has issued 47 separate recommendations in which it concluded that public officials committed torture, 42 of which involved the judicial investigative police.
In several cases, Human Rights Watch found evidence that justice officials conspired with security forces in fabricating false confessions from suspects. For example, Nallely Thamara Lara Sosa told Human Rights Watch that she was arbitrarily detained in June and taken to an illegal detention facility. Upon arriving, she said she was tortured and sexually assaulted by security officers to force her to falsely confess to collaborating in the murder of three women. She said her confession was written by justice officials who worked with her torturers, and that she was forced to sign it without reading it.
While it is true that similarities in the accounts of accomplices is to be expected and in fact may constitute proof that they collaborated in committing a crime, the pro-forma, word-for-word repetition of insignificant details and the near-identical chronology across confessions strongly suggest that all four accounts were written by one source, not presented by the suspects, who allege they were forced to sign fabricated confessions. As the excerpts demonstrate, all of the defendants allege that Cachibombo repeatedly stabbed the victim, after which El Meno took the knife from him.
Rather, the error suggests that fabricators simply forgot to change text in a few select places as they copied the account from Cachibombo to El Kiko. Judges have a critical role to play in eliminating perverse incentives for torture: Mexican law requires them to bar as evidence at trial any confessions obtained through torture or other forms of ill-treatment. They also have an obligation to ensure that allegations of torture by criminal defendants and other victims are immediately reported to prosecutors, so that they can be investigated, or to directly order investigations in cases where there are signs of torture.
However, as the illustrative cases in this chapter illustrate, judges continue to admit as evidence statements and confessions that defendants allege were obtained through torture without insisting that the torture allegations be properly investigated. The use as evidence of statements allegedly obtained through coercion before victims are presented before a judge runs contrary to the Constitutional reforms passed in Mexico in , which establish that all evidence be rendered directly before a judge. This practice also clearly contradicts the Constitutional requirement that all evidence obtained through fundamental rights violations shall be null and void.
In the judgment of the Supreme Court, the right to due process—which is embedded in the guarantee of lawfulness protected by Article 14 of our Constitution—ensures the unalienable right to not be judged based on evidence whose procurement is found on the fringes of constitutional and legal requirements…. It can be concluded that forms of proof obtained through the violation of fundamental rights should not carry evidentiary weight. To concede value to such evidence would contradict the guarantee of the presumption of innocence, which entails that nobody can be judged guilty if the crime of which he is accused and his responsibility for it is not proven, circumstances that dictate that the evidence we use to prove such ends should be obtained in a legal manner.
When brought before a judge on February 11, Arzate said he had been beaten, asphyxiated, given electric shocks, and threatened with death if he did not admit to crimes he did not commit. The judge went on to argue that the suspect had willingly relinquished his right to remain silent in front of a public defender and prosecutor, despite the fact Arzate said he had been forced to confess. The judge did not order that the Istanbul Protocol should be followed and Arzate should be assessed accordingly, despite his allegations of torture.
Later when the CNDH conducted its examination in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, it concluded that he had in fact been tortured. In the hearing, Arzate told the judge that soldiers had taken him out of the prison where he was being held to threaten and torture him. He asked the judge who was responsible for approving these ongoing interrogations. In August , 17 municipal police from Huimanguillo, Tabasco said they were arbitrarily arrested and subjected to asphyxiation, beatings, mock executions, waterboarding, and electric shocks to force them to confess to working for a drug cartel.
With respect to the long list of physical injuries exhibited by the defendants, the judge argued that they could have been sustained before or after their confessions—and did not necessarily imply they had been tortured to give confessions, as they claimed. Medical exams that accurately record the physical condition of detainees are a key safeguard for preventing torture and are critical to ensuring that acts of torture are documented and punished. As the illustrative cases in this chapter demonstrate, detainees frequently report instances in which civilian medical experts have failed to document physical evidence of mistreatment of detainees or downplay the severity of their injuries.
Human Rights Watch found that the independence with which medical exams are conducted is often compromised by the presence of security officers during the exam.
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And even in those cases where experts document serious injuries, they often do not offer any conclusions as to what may have caused the injuries or request more comprehensive exams be conducted into possible instances of torture. The officers present may well be those responsible for having inflicted any injuries. When asked whether this might compromise the integrity of the exam by intimidating the detainee or the medical examiner—such as by causing the victim to lie about how injuries were sustained, or discouraging the examiner from asking questions that might implicate the officer present—the deputy attorney general conceded that was a legitimate risk.
In some cases, such assessments were contradicted by further exams conducted by independent medical experts hired by families or by examiners from the CNDH or state human rights commissions. Another problem is medical examiners' lack of structural independence. Such medical negligence was evident in the case of Marcelo Laguarda , who told Human Rights Watch that authorities tortured him to falsely confess that he hired a cartel member to kill someone. Laguarda said that the medical exam he received upon being handed over to prosecutors failed to record the severity of his injuries and that the doctor ignored him when he said he had been tortured.
This was true even in cases where the suspect had to be sent to a hospital for emergency treatment or even died in custody, most likely as a result of the physical injuries suffered. The officers and their families told Human Rights Watch that the injuries were inflicted before their first exam, but that medical examiners had deliberately overlooked them. Nevertheless, shortly after that exam was conducted, the detainee had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation. He had been beaten so severely that he was suffering internal bleeding, and part of his intestines had to be removed.
Even in those cases where medical examiners determine that victims present significant injuries, medical forms do not ask doctors to deduce how such injuries may have been sustained or whether victims may have been abused. Nor is there a clear mechanism through which a medical examiner can anonymously request a more thorough medical exam be applied.
For example, the Army detained four civilians in Rosarito, Baja California, on June 16, , accusing them of being kidnappers. The four were transported to a military base, where they said they were beaten, waterboarded, and asphyxiated, among other forms of torture, to force them to give false confessions. The mother of two of the victims—herself a nurse—visited them on June 20 and said they exhibited a range of injuries. Both had scarred wrists and hematomas all over their bodies. In one case, for instance, the expert recorded the following injuries:.
The downgrading and omission of serious injuries is particularly pronounced among medical examiners in the military justice system, a problem that has been highlighted by the National Human Rights Commission. Human Rights Watch conducted an in-depth review of 74 cases in which the National Human Rights Commission determined the Army had committed acts of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against civilians. In at least 25 of these cases, Human Rights Watch found, the commission found that military medical experts had failed to conduct thorough and impartial medical examinations of detainees who had suffered serious abuses at the hands of soldiers.
However, as the National Human Rights Commission noted in its investigation, the military medical expert who examined the victims:. Investigating and prosecuting allegations of torture is critical to combating impunity and preventing torture. Prosecutors rarely follow the Istanbul Protocol, which sets out the proper procedure for the assessment of allegations of torture, including appropriate physical and psychological medical evaluation, documentation and investigation. Nor do they critically examine, or effectively coordinate, the evidence produced by medical examiners, judicial investigative police, crime scene investigators, and other experts under their command whose efforts are essential to prosecuting officials who commit abuses.
They also fail to take steps critical to any credible investigation, such as interviewing victims and preserving crucial forensic evidence. The result is that use of torture is not punished and abusive state officials continue to use abusive tactics. Of the cases of torture documented at the outset of this chapter, not a single one resulted in a state official being prosecuted for mistreatment.
Indeed, in many of the cases, despite formal complaints and compelling evidence of torture, prosecutors never even opened investigations in response to the allegations of mistreatment. Federal and state justice officials rarely follow the Istanbul Protocol, depriving prosecutors both of a key tool for evaluating the claims of alleged torture victims and of potentially decisive evidence against officials who commit abuses. In August Mexico became the first country in the world to incorporate into domestic law the Istanbul Protocol, a set of guidelines developed by experts and endorsed by the United Nations on how to evaluate and investigate allegations of torture.
In practice however, Human Rights Watch found that eight years after adopting the protocol, state officials do not follow it, or do so inconsistently and, in some cases, incorrectly. Prosecutors, public defenders, and judges lack a basic understanding of what it means to perform a medical and psychological exam in line with the Istanbul Protocol and how the exam should be used to effectively investigate and prosecute torture. For instance, numerous prosecutors we interviewed were unaware that the Istanbul Protocol stipulates that a psychological assessment should be conducted as well as a physical one.
Officials also offered erroneous views as to when the protocol should be followed—with some suggesting, for example, that victims explicitly have to request it as a special procedure. And public officials offered conflicting views regarding which body is responsible for ensuring that the protocol is used to investigate allegations of torture: some said the duty fell to human rights commissions, while others said it was the responsibility of prosecutors. As a result, the Istanbul Protocol is only implemented in a small fraction of the cases in which civilians allege torture.
In 35 of those cases, the investigators concluded that there was evidence that federal officials had used torture on the victims. Interviews with federal prosecutors in various states revealed that officials do not systematically follow the protocol when they receive allegations of torture. For example, federal prosecutors in Baja California said they were unaware of a single case in which exams had been carried out as required by the protocol.
According to formal information requests submitted by Human Rights Watch and interviews with state prosecutors:. That the Istanbul Protocol is so rarely invoked and followed helps explain why so few investigations into torture are opened, and why officials are rarely, identified as responsible for torture, and then held accountable for such acts.
Were federal and state prosecutors to follow the process set out in the protocol consistently when faced with allegations of torture, they would be able to identify patterns of abuse, as well as to document and preserve critical evidence to hold officials accountable. The consistent failure to follow the protocol suggests widespread and deep-seated resistance to taking allegations of torture seriously, which in turn protects abusive public officials and fosters impunity. According to information obtained through public information requests and interviews with state prosecutors:.
In none of the cases of torture documented by Human Rights Watch in the five states surveyed for this report was a single public official convicted for torture, according to information provided by officials to Human Rights Watch. Although federal and state prosecutors acknowledged in interviews that complaints of torture are common, they argued that criminals often fabricated such claims to try to escape punishment.
If this argument were based on impartial and effective investigations into allegations of torture that concluded the allegations were unsubstantiated, it could be justified. But in an environment where justice officials do not follow the Istanbul Protocol and do not conduct other fundamental investigative steps in response to allegations of torture, such statements reveal flagrant disregard for the most basic obligations required of the absolute prohibition on torture and respect for the rule of law.
That is false. The only one who lies in an investigation is the defendant. One of the main reasons prosecutors do not investigate cases of torture is that they classify the abuses that have taken place as a less serious offense. When asked how they determined whether abuses alleged by victims rose to the level of torture, state prosecutors gave vague and inconsistent answers that suggested the absence of any criteria. It is true that not all cases of physical and mental abuse may rise to the level of torture.
And Human Rights Watch does not claim to have been able to individually review the thousands of complaints classified as lesser abuses to determine whether they in fact were accurately defined or masked more serious human rights violations. Yet as the cases in this chapter show, and as the inconsistent implementation of the Istanbul Protocol at the state and federal level demonstrates, prosecutors are not investigating the vast majority of allegations of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
When they act at all, prosecutors too often classify acts of torture as less serious offenses. Not only does the classification of acts of torture as less serious offenses conceal the depth of a grave problem, but less serious offenses are subject to a different method of investigation.
The practice of downgrading the severity of accusations of torture is particularly pronounced in the military justice system. Human Rights Watch examined numerous cases which were investigated by both the National Human Rights Commission and in the military justice system. In particular, we analyzed 74 cases where the commission found the Army had committed torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
Medical exams conducted by the commission and prison medical experts documented physical wounds corroborating the victim's description of abuse. Yet despite credible evidence of torture, military prosecutors classified the incident as a case of "abuse of authority. This is particularly alarming given the high number of investigations opened in the military justice system into such lesser offenses. These include:. This item may be a floor model or store return that has been used. See details for description of any imperfections. Skip to main content.
About this product. Stock photo. Pre-owned: lowest price The lowest-priced item that has been used or worn previously. Paperback in Good condition. See details. Buy It Now. Add to cart. Be the first to write a review About this product. About this product Product Information Este libro, el Dr. Lucas Leys, trata uno de los temas mas calientes con los que en algun momento te vas a tener que confrontar. Esta escrito para jovenes que luchan con este desafio o que tienen amigos que los estan enfrentando. En estas paginas te vas a encontrar con muchos datos investigativos y variadas preguntas que te van a hacer pensar.
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El autor cree que la ignorancia no es buena consejera y que esta generacion no se conforma con que alguien les diga que algo es malo sin recibir una explicacion coherente y honesta. Un libro apuntado al blanco, escrito por uno de los mas renombrados lideres y especialista de la nueva generacion. Additional Product Features Number of Volumes. Show More Show Less.