Mexico: torture and abuse cases continue to increase

Mexico’s Miguel AgustĂ­n Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (PRODH) held a press conference in Mexico City on Oct. 23 to announce the release of a report on the alleged torture of Israel Arzate MelĂ©ndez, a resident of Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua, by state police and the military. According to the report, Tortured, Imprisoned and Innocent, two soldiers arrested Arzate on Feb. 3, 2010, charging him with participation in the massacre of 15 youths in Ciudad Juárez’s Villas de Salvárcar neighborhood the previous Jan. 30. The report says the soldiers took Arzate to a military installation, stripped him naked, tied up his hands and feet, placed a plastic bag over his head and tortured him with electric shocks to get him to confess to involvement in the killings.

Torture and arbitrary detention “continue to be daily bread” in Mexico, Javier Hernández Valencia, the Mexico representative of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the press conference. These are “a mechanism for investigation which the police and military never give up resorting to,” he added. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (CSJN) has agreed to consider the Arzate case. (Milenio, Mexico, Oct. 23; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 24)

On Oct. 24 government officials denied that there is systematic use of torture by the police and the military. “The only public servants in the armed forces that haven’t had a course on human rights are the new ones,” Governance Secretary Alejandro PoirĂ© said, “but in practice they are given this course within three or four months of joining.” (LJ, Oct. 25)

Complaints of torture and other abuse by the police and the military have increased dramatically since President Felipe CalderĂłn Hinojosa escalated the military’s involvement in Mexico’s “war on drugs” shortly after he took office in December 2006. The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) released a report on Oct. 11 charging that the CalderĂłn administration has “effectively turned a blind eye” to the problem. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received 1,669 reports of police and military torture and abuse in 2011, almost three times as many in 2008, when the commission received 564 complaints, according to the report, Known Abusers, but Victims Ignored: Torture and Ill-Treatment in Mexico. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 28

See our last post on Mexico’s human rights crisis.