Mexico: controversy grows over Atenco torture case

From El Universal, Nov. 14 via Chiapas95 (our translation):

Mexican police officials on Monday rejected a critical report from the National Human Rights Commission, saying it relied on false information to accuse federal police of brutality during May protests in the state of Mexico.

On Sunday, the commission – which is autonomous but receives government funding – said federal police had refused to cooperate with rights authorities or conduct a thorough investigation into the beatings and alleged abuse of demonstrators in the town of Atenco, northeast of Mexico City.

In an unusually harshly worded statement, the Public Safety Department – which oversees federal police – said it had investigated the complaints of abuse, but found they were based “on false information and accusations.”

“The interpretation made (by the rights commission) of these events confuses and mixes subjective and circumstantial information, which is then presented as concrete conclusions, when in fact they are erroneous interpretations,” the department stated.

The department denied the commission’s accusation that it had engaged “in a form of cover-up.” It said it was conducting its own investigation “and if warranted, will apply the appropriate punishments” to any police officers who had engaged in misconduct.

State, local and federal police descended upon Atenco to end violent protests in which demonstrators kidnapped and beat six policemen, one brutally, after authorities tried to prevent street vendors from setting up stands in a nearby city.

Caught on TV

But when police retook the town, they were shown on television repeatedly clubbing protesters after taking them into custody. At least 23 female detainees claimed they were sexually abused by officers.

The worst abuses were allegedly committed by local police but the commission said federal police – who played a support role in the raid – had helped conduct improper searches and beat some detainees.

The commission demanded a thorough investigation, but said federal police failed to cooperate with its requests for information on the raid, arguing it was classified.

“When federal authorities say they are not willing to investigate or punish suspected culprits, the alleged crimes and infractions of the federal police will once again remain in impunity,” the commission said in its statement.

See our last posts on Mexico and the Atenco case.