The U.N. Committee Against Torture, made up of 10 independent experts, began Thursday a two-day hearing of Mexico’s record of complying with an international treaty banning the crime.
Mexico’s delegation that presented at the U.N. hearing told those present that under the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) in office since December, the prosecutor’s office no longer reported to the executive, thus “guaranteeing independence” in criminal investigations.
“We still have a long road to ensure that torture and other cruel or inhumane treatment are eradicated once and for all,” said Marta Delgado Peralta, under-secretary within the foreign ministry.
Activists said Wednesday that Mexico’s security forces and prison authorities commit systematic torture and rape of detainees with “near-universal” impunity.
Asphyxiation and electric shocks are used, as well as sexual violence, 120 groups said in a joint statement. Out of 8,335 torture investigations, the federal special prosecutor’s office reported last year that it had brought charges in only 17 cases, the groups said.
Presenting before the Committee against Torture of @ONU_en in Geneva, Mexico presents detailed information on its progress on the main issues of concern of the committee.
Stephanie Brewer of the Mexican human rights group Centro Prodh told reporters ahead of the review: “This is going to be a litmus test of whether the government is really going to change in its actions.”
A government survey carried out in 2016 under previous right-wing president Enrique Peña Nieto within some 300 prisons found that more than 75 percent of inmates suffered violence during their arrest, the activists’ groups said, identifying members of the army and navy as the “worst offenders.” The military has had the right to apprehend civil suspects since the Felipe Calderon administration.
Panel members highlighted the allegations, including deaths and mistreatment of Central American migrants in custody, with the government delegation will reply Friday.
Some 200,000 prisoners are in custody in Mexico where more than half of the jails are “ruled or co-ruled by criminal gangs,” international panel chair Jens Modvig said, citing the country’s National Committee for Human Rights.
He called for Mexico to establish an independent forensics institute instead of relying on doctors in the prosecutor’s office to document torture.
“Substandard medical reports remain the main cause of impunity because the courts tend to dismiss cases without clear medical evidence,” said the human rights expert.
“We have a vicious circle that will maintain the problem of torture and evidence produced by using torture,” he said.