A senior government official concedes that Mexican agencies continue to use torture in many areas of their work but the federal government is committed to eliminating it.
Human Rights Undersecretary Roberto Campa emphasized at a government-hosted seminar this week that security organizations have been unanimous in condemning torture and that both they and the government as a whole are committed to putting an end to it.
Non-governmental organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claim there is evidence of widespread use of torture practices by government security forces including beatings, asphyxiation, electric shocks and sexual violence, particularly against women.
During the seminar, Jan Jarab, the representative in Mexico of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, repeated the torture allegation and questioned the government’s efforts to curb its practice.
“Torture persists, is it [because of] a lack of ability or will? What is needed to carry out an effective investigation into torture? What is needed to provide justice to victims?”
Jarab stressed that it was a government obligation to prevent, investigate and punish the crime as well as compensate victims.
He asserted that harm caused by torture was “multifaceted and profound” and that compensation should not just be monetary but also aimed at victims’ recovery in accordance with both national and international standards.
The UN envoy also charged that “to confront the problems you have to start by naming them [accordingly], referring to torture in more euphemistic, softer ways doesn’t amount to confronting the problem . . . torture is an extremely serious offense.”
Tolerance of torture should be dismantled through information campaigns aimed at both authorities and the general public and the government needs to overcome its shortcomings in dealing with the matter by increasing its specialized personnel working in the area, Jarab added.
He concluded his more than 40-minute address by saying that Mexico had considerable challenges to overcome, including denying that the crime exists and/or justifying its practice.
In response, Campa acknowledged the concerns and pointed to efforts to combat torture while conceding that the problem still exists and there is substantial work to be done in order to get rid of it completely.
“It cannot be denied that there have been advances in our country, that its practice has been reduced in many of the security bodies and our legal framework is now much clearer about its prohibition. However, we have to recognize that we haven’t achieved its eradication,” Campa admitted.
“This recognition is not just based on the advice of international organizations but also very importantly, on the diagnosis of national organizations.”
Campa stressed that the most important step in combating the scourge is for Congress to pass the General Law to Prevent, Investigate and Sanction Torture.
He also told Jarab that he was confident that government policies and actions aimed at strengthening institutional protocols would be effective in combating the problem.
“We are convinced that the process to arrive at this law is a process that allows us to say to everyone that participated in it that it achieved its job, that we’ve reached a law that meets the expectations of everyone. We are certain that this law constitutes solid progress.”
However, he also granted that it wouldn’t be easy and that government mechanisms need to be improved to prevent all acts of torture and to identify and appropriately punish those that are detected.
“There are still bodies that consider torture as an investigative tool, we have to reaffirm that it is not . . . . We have an opportunity . . . to eliminate the incentives of torture and guarantee the right to due process.”
Campa further indicated that the initiative has the support of President Enrique Peña Nieto although with an election just over a year away, the time to make substantive progress for his administration is limited.
“Torture is not in anybody’s interest, it provokes serious consequences in every way . . . an investigation based on torture lacks legal value and doesn’t guarantee arriving at the truth.”
Source: Reforma (sp)