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Committee against Torture reviews the report of Mexico

GENEVA (26 April 2019) - The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Mexico on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Marta Delgado Peralta, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mexico, at the outset stressed that Mexico was in the process of profound transformation in which the new Government was promoting a new vision of the country, with the full respect for human rights as a fundamental pillar.  The general law for the prevention, investigation and punishment of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment had entered into force in 2017; applicable throughout the country, it defined the crimes of torture and ill-treatment, general rules for their investigation, prosecution and sanction, as well as the responsibility of hierarchical superiors who knew or participated in the commission of such crimes.  The 2011 constitutional reform had reinforced the legal framework for civilian courts to hear cases of alleged human rights violations committed by military personnel, while the 2014 reform of the Military Code of Justice excluded from military jurisdiction the cases in which civilians were victims.  The Government was aware that in order to address the challenges, there must be a strong steadfast commitment to the fight against impunity, emphasized Ms. Delgado Peralta. 

While welcoming the adoption of the general law on torture and other positive legal steps, the Committee Experts raised concern about the high level of torture and mistreatment by the State, as torture was still being carried out in a generalized manner by State agents and security forces.  The use of torture in places of detention seemed endemic, they said, while a climate of impunity prevailed - only seven per cent of the crimes were denounced and only 4.6 per cent of investigated crimes resulted in convictions.  The Experts stressed that the situations in which persons were at the highest risk of being tortured – arrest, interrogation, custody, detention and imprisonment – must be under regular scrutiny and systematic review to prevent torture from taking place.  The Committee was seriously concerned about the denial of fundamental legal safeguards to all persons deprived of their liberty from the moment of detention and the precarious conditions in which migrants and refugees were held.  Since 2007, the Mexican Commission for Human Rights had carried out the functions of the national prevention mechanism, however, it had not had a discernible impact on preventing torture in places of detention. 

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Delgado Peralta reiterated Mexico’s firm commitment to eradicate impunity and to ensure that its institutions were free from torture. 

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, thanked the delegation and wished Mexico all the best in its endeavours.  The Committee would select three urgent recommendations for follow up, on which the State party would need to report within a year. 

The delegation of Mexico consisted of representatives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, National Prosecutor General, Department for Citizen Security and Protection, Department for National Defence, National Institute of Migration, Executive Commission for Attention to Victims, National Commission for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women, and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Mexico at the end of its sixty-sixth session on 17 May.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Monday, 29 April, to start its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Germany (CAT/C/DEU/6).  On Tuesday, 30 April, the Committee will commence the review of the second periodic report of South Africa (CAT/C/ZAF/2) at 10 a.m., while at 3 p.m. it will conclude the examination of Germany’s report.
Report

The Committee has before it the seventh periodic report of Mexico (CAT/C/MEX/7).

Presentation of the Report

MARTA DELGADO PERALTA, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mexico, at the outset stressed that Mexico was in the process of profound transformation in which the Government was promoting a new vision of the country where the full respect for human rights was a fundamental pillar.  Mexico was aware of the challenges and, together with the United Nations and this Committee, was making progress in the construction of an institutional framework to meet the enormous challenges in the country.  The general law for the prevention, investigation and punishment of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment had entered into force in 2017, the result of an important consultation process with scholars, international organizations, and civil society organizations, Ms. Delgado Peralta said.  Applicable throughout the country, the law defined the crimes of torture and ill-treatment, general rules for their investigation, prosecution and sanction, as well as the responsibility of hierarchical superiors who knew or participated in the commission of such crimes.  It criminalized torture as a crime without a statute of limitation and prohibited amnesty or impunity to anyone convicted for the crime of torture.

The 2011 constitutional reform on human rights had reinforced the legal framework for civilian courts to hear cases of alleged human rights violations committed by military personnel, while the 2014 reform of the Military Code of Justice excluded from military jurisdiction cases of civilian victims of human rights violations.  The 2017 law on the execution of penal sanctions had regulated preventive detention, which was now subject to criteria of exceptionality and presumption of innocence.  It was imposed by a judge and according to due process, and currently represented 19.5 per cent of precautionary measures imposed by judges.  The Supreme Court had established that evidence obtained under torture was inadmissible in criminal proceedings and should be excluded from trials.

On the criminal concept of house arrest or “arraigo”, Ms. Delgado Peralta noted that it was a precautionary and exceptional measure applied only in most serious cases; in its execution, any use of incommunicado detention, intimidation, or torture was prohibited.  The armed and police forces received continued training in human rights and Mexico had recently signed a technical assistance agreement with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Furthermore, the mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists had implemented protective measures for 1,144 individuals, including 22 cases of allegations of torture.  As for gender-based violence, the Supreme Court of Justice had declared sexual violence an act of torture and had set out that a statement by the victim constituted a piece of fundamental evidence which carried a preponderant weight in all judicial sentences on the matter.

The Government was aware that in order to address the challenges, there must be a strong steadfast commitment to the fight against impunity, emphasized Ms. Delgado Peralta.  The reform of the criminal justice system, concluded in 2016, had transformed the judicial process into an accusatory system in which the rights of victims were fully respected.  According to the first national survey of the population deprived of liberty and studies from the World Justice Project, the new criminal justice system had made judicial decisions more swift and transparent.  The law to prevent torture had provided for the creation of the special prosecutor for torture and the national programme for the prevention and sanctioning of torture.  A harmonized protocol for the investigation process had been developed that abided with the highest human rights standards.  The organic law of 14 December 2018 had transformed the Office of the Attorney General into the Office of the Prosecutor General, which ceased to be subordinate to the executive power and attained full autonomy and independence.  The new Government of Mexico was currently in the process of consulting with a wide range of stakeholders with a view to developing a national development plan which contained human rights and the fight against torture.  The outcomes of the dialogue with the Committee against Torture would be integrated into this plan, said Ms. Delgado Peralta.

Questions by the Committee Experts

DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ-PINZÓN, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, welcomed the adoption of the general law on torture, which criminalized torture, and its entry into force in 2017, and remarked that as of June 2018, only two federal states had harmonized their anti-torture legislation.  In addition, there were concerns about the implementation of some of the aspects of the general law on torture, for example the national programme for the prevention of torture had not yet been put in place and civil society organizations had not been invited to participate in its preparation.

Despite the positive legislative steps, numerous reports denounced the high level of torture and mistreatment by the State, as torture was still being carried out in a generalized manner by State agents and security forces.  The use of torture in places of detention seemed endemic: over 63 per cent of respondents in the first national survey of persons deprived of liberty had stated that they had experienced physical violence by State agents during the arrest, while 35 per cent had suffered simulated asphyxiation.   

A climate of impunity prevailed as only seven per cent of the crimes were denounced and only 4.6 per cent of investigated crimes resulted in convictions.  The Co-Rapporteur requested the delegation to provide trustworthy figures on the number of cases of torture which were being criminally prosecuted under this law, and to explain the indicators used to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the general law for the prevention of torture.

The Committee was seriously concerned about the denial of fundamental legal safeguards to all persons deprived of their liberty from the moment of detention.  According to the first national survey, 41 per cent of detainees had been arrested without a proper arrest order and 58 per cent had been kept incommunicado.  Access to a lawyer had been impeded by the authorities, while public defenders and judges did not seem to serve as guarantors of fundamental rights and safeguards.  What measures had been adopted to ensure the vigorous maintenance of detention registers?

House arrest or “arraigo” allowed for preventive detention for 40 days which could be extended to 80 days to allow for the investigation of persons involved in organized crimes.  Since detained persons were not officially charged, fundamental legal safeguards were not applicable, thus the practice represented a form of arbitrary detention.

The delegation was further asked to explain measures taken to ensure that all detainees received an independent medical examination at the moment of arrest and to inform the Committee on the application in Mexico of the Istanbul Protocol, or the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Since 2007, the Mexican Commission for Human Rights had carried out the functions of the national prevention mechanism.  Although by December 2015 it had visited more than 4,000 places of detention, it had not had a discernible impact on preventing torture in places of detention.  The Committee welcomed the reform of the national prevention mechanism, which had been initiated by the general law on torture, and asked the delegation to provide an update on the process and the steps that would be taken to render it more effective.

Mr. Rodríguez-Pinzón requested the delegation to provide data on victims of gender-based violence, including domestic violence and femicide, disaggregated by age, ethnicity and nationality, as well as data on investigations, convictions and sentences meted out to perpetrators of those crimes.  What measures had been adopted to confront the impunity for gender-based violence, to comply with the judgement of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning women victims of sexual violence, and to address femicides in Ciudan Juares.

Human trafficking seemed to be concentrated in some parts of Mexico and very few cases – only about 10 per cent – had been sentenced.  What was the status of the reform of the general law on trafficking and what steps were being taken to ensure effective access to remedy for victims of human trafficking?  Had Mexico set up a mechanism for the identification of victims of trafficking in persons among migrants?

The delegation was asked to inform on the number of cases of extradition and expulsion after having accepted diplomatic guarantees, and the number of cases in which Mexico had offered diplomatic guarantees to other countries.  Reiterating the duty of the State party to ensure protection from torture, the Co-Rapporteur asked about the mechanisms in place to ensure that the content of diplomatic guarantees was aligned with the Convention against Torture and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

A great source of concern were the precarious conditions in which migrants and refugees were held.  The 50 migration hubs were truly detention centres in which people – including children - were subjected to verbal, physical and psychological violence by State agents.  Were migration centres open to visits by the national prevention mechanism and non-governmental organizations?  What measures were in place to ensure the application of the principle of non-refoulement?

Following the reform of the Criminal Code in 2007, Mexican criminal courts had universal jurisdiction for the crimes of torture, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim and regardless of where the crime had taken place.  However, universal jurisdiction was limited only to crimes committed in countries in which torture was defined as a crime.  Could the delegation comment on this unusual application of the principle of dual criminality and inform on any cases tried by Mexican courts in their exercise of universal jurisdiction?  The delegation was asked to inform on mutual legal assistance agreements it had with other States or international institutions and how those had helped in the prosecution of crimes of torture.

In terms of human rights training for various agents of the State, particularly for security forces and penitentiary officers, the Co-Rapporteur asked the delegation to inform on the content of those training programmes, their coverage, target beneficiaries, and the methods used to ascertain their impact on reducing the level of torture and ill treatment in the institutions in which training participants worked.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, stressed that the situations in which persons were at the highest risk of being tortured – arrest, interrogation, custody, detention and imprisonment – must be under regular scrutiny and systematic review to prevent torture from taking place.  What efforts was Mexico taking to systematically review norms, instructions, methods, and practices of provisions relating to detention and to adopt concrete measures to prevent torture in relation to detention?

Mr. Modvig raised concern about overcrowding in some prisons, which stood at 425 per cent in Chalco prison, 296 per cent in Lerma prison, and 256 per cent in Jilotepec prison, all in the state of Mexico.  Half of the detainees in federal prisons were pre-trial detainees following the recent expansion (tripling) of the list of crimes under the Constitution’s article 19 which allowed for automatic detention of individuals. 

How much did pre-trial detainees contribute to prison overcrowding?  While the duration of pre-trial detention should not exceed two years according to the law on the execution of penal sanctions, there were numerous cases in which people were detained for longer periods, said the Chairperson, citing the case of Daniel Garcia who had been detained for 16 years without a verdict.  According to some reports, 40 per cent of people in pre-trial detention should be released.

More than half of the prisons in Mexico were either ruled or co-ruled by criminal gangs, which carried important consequences for the security of prisoners and staff and the rule of law in the management of the prisons.  What was being done to eliminate the inmate self-rule in prisons and was there a connection between the self-rule and insufficient prison staff?  Bribery seemed to be widespread and chronic, with 87 per cent of the inmates reporting that they had paid custodial staff for services, benefits, or permissions, and the vast majority (94 per cent) did not complain for fear of reprisals. 

One of the common punishments, often used arbitrarily, was solitary confinement, held in small cells under very poor conditions, for excessively long periods – even months – and with restrictions on family visits and phone calls. 

The Chairperson invited Mexico to engage in a more constructive dialogue on death in custody, noting that with a prison population of more than 200,000 it was unlikely that the figure of 38 deaths in a year represented the full picture and that mortality in prisons was likely much higher.  A confrontation between two rival gangs in the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey had resulted in 49 deaths in February 2016; in July 2017, 28 inmates had been killed during a riot in a state prison in Acapulco; and in October 2017, 13 inmates had been killed in a state prison in Nuevo Leon.  Death in custody reflected several problems, Mr. Modvig noted –torture by prison staff, violence from other inmates, or insufficient health care.  Why was Mexico not collecting and analysing data on death in custody and what procedures were applicable in such cases?  How were the health services in prisons organized?

The Committee was concerned by the lack of information in Mexico’s report concerning complaints of torture and ill-treatment in places of detention.  The National Commission for Human Rights had reported that during the period 2013 through to January 2019, it had received 285 complaints of torture and 3,239 complaints of ill-treatment.  What steps were being taken to investigate those complaints and prosecute and punish perpetrators?

On enforced disappearances, the location of approximately 37,400 people who had gone missing since 2006 remained unknown, and thousands of bodies had been found in numerous clandestine graves since 2007.  While there was a specialized office to investigate and prosecute disappearances, from 2013 to 2018 it had opened 1,255 investigations and only pressed charges in 11 cases.  What progress was being made in clarifying cases of enforced disappearance apparently committed by members of the security forces or by individuals acting with the direct or indirect support of Government officials?  The delegation was asked to provide statistics, year by year, of the number of cases on human rights violations against civilians processed by military courts.

The Committee commended the establishment of the Special Unit for the Investigation of the Crime of Torture under the Attorney General’s office, which was an impressive result, although concerns remained about the capacity of this mechanism to address the mounting problem as the number of special prosecutors was insufficient and there was a backlog of torture cases.  What would the Special Unit do to build trust and encourage victims to submit complaints without fear, since this was essential for the effectiveness of the complaint system for allegations of torture?  What considerations was Mexico giving to establish an independent forensic medical institute to strengthen, inter alia, the compliance with the Istanbul Protocol, and to provide the necessary independence and integrity of the medical professionals involved in the evaluation of alleged cases of torture?

The number of confessions extracted under torture was substantial - people were found guilty based on confessions extracted by the use of torture and victims themselves were under the obligation to prove to the court that torture had taken place.  According to some reports, 40 per cent of those who pleaded guilty before the Public Prosecutor had been subjected to physical attacks, threats, and other pressure.  The Committee had been informed about 29 cases where detained women had been sexually tortured. 

Mr. Modvig appreciated the steps taken by the mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists, including the formulation of protection and prevention guidelines and the putting in place of the national system of monitoring risks and attacks.  However, the system remained insufficient to provide effective protection, and there were even cases of human rights defenders under protection who had been killed.  The Committee requested information on investigations conducted in connection with the abduction and killing of Herón Sixto López, a lawyer, in 2013; the killing of Alberto López Bello, a journalist in 2013; and the abduction and killings of Arturo Hernández Cardona, Félix Rafael Bandera Román, and Ángel Román Ramírez, members of the organization Unidad Popular, in 2013.

Other Experts were concerned about the protection of the rights of refugees and migrants, particularly those from El Salvador and Honduras, which were the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world.  Particularly concerning was the fact that 20 per cent of those sent back were unaccompanied minors and that impunity for crimes against refugees and migrants continued to reign.  The Experts welcomed the adoption of the Criminal Code in 2016 and the reform of the criminal justice system, but raised concern about the involvement of the military security forces in civilian affairs, especially as they had not been trained in lawful arrest and detention.  One consequence was the dramatic increase in unlawful arrests, from 6,000 in 2006 to 72,000 in 2013.  The delegation was also asked about juvenile justice systems and steps taken to improve the situation of children in conflict with the law in Mexico.  

Replies by the Delegation

MARTA DELGADO PERALTA, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mexico, recalled that in December 2018, Mexico had changed not only its Government but a political regime, a decision made by the population tired of the situation of violence and corruption it had lived in for the previous 15 years.  Mexico, as a country of institutions, was able to implement this change of government and regime in a peaceful way.  The new Government was composed largely of civil society organization activists who were now working on building a country of legality and the rule of law, a question closely linked with the prevention of torture.  This was not something that could be resolved in a short period of time, but the Government, which had been in power for five months only, had already starting steps in the right direction, including in addressing the challenge of migration based on human rights and regional cooperation, said Ms. Delgado Peralta.  Mexico reiterated its commitment to protect the rights of migrants, including those who wished to apply for asylum in the United States, and to allow, on humanitarian grounds, the entry and transit of persons traveling to or being returned from the United States.

The delegation said that the general law to prosecute and punish the crimes of torture defined various forms of torture and ill-treatment and their punishment, and set the minimum standard.  It was not necessary for all the federal states to harmonize their laws with the general law.  On 30 April, a meeting would take place between various stakeholders to garner consensus on the drafting and coordination of the national programme for the prevention of torture, provided for under the general law.  Up to January 2019, the Prosecutor’s Office had 4,296 prior inquiries related to allegations of the use of torture and 645 casefiles under the accusatorial system.  Between 2013 and 2018, the federal courts had handed down 45 sentences for the crime of torture.

The concept of “arraigo” was only used in cases involving organized crime and the procedure could be challenged before the courts.  Since the entry into force of the accusatorial system, there had been a significant drop in the number of such cases, from 1,933 in 2011 to only 21 in 2018.  A draft constitutional reform to repeal “arraigo” had been submitted to Parliament in 2018 and was still under review.

Complaints could be submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office directly or through the Visitel platform.  In addition, the citizens’ complaint window had been created to facilitate the communication between the Prosecutor’s Office and citizens, using modern information and communication technology.

Mexico was aware of the critical importance of independent forensic medical experts in the prevention of torture.  All medical certificates were issued by the General Office of Expert Services, whose experts operated using international standards and in their examinations followed the Istanbul Protocol to the letter.  The medical certificates were issued at the point of entry of a person into the penitentiary system or when a detained person addressed the General Office with a request for a medical examination.  To ensure that medical examinations were thorough and independent, the experts were supervised throughout.  The General Office had hired 46 psychologists and 12 medical doctors in 2018, who had received 400 hours of expert training in forensic medicine and psychology.

A number of bilateral and multilateral treaties had been signed with other countries to combat and prevent organized crime, including trafficking in persons.  Mexico had taken part in the Regional Coalition against Human Trafficking and Illegal Trafficking of Migrants, together with eight other countries in the region.  As for the investigation of the disappearance of 43 students in the Ayotzinapa case, which had attracted much international attention, the delegation said that the Prosecutor’s Office was carrying out the investigation, including into allegations of torture.  Mexico was resolute to provide accountability in this case.

Torture was a serious problem in Mexico but the Government was addressing it head on, including in the Police Force, National Institute of Migration, and the Ministry of Defence.  Torture was not systematic in the country and there had been a noticeable drop in the number of allegations in recent years.  The complaints received by the federal police had dropped from 360 in 2016 to 40 in 2018; those received by the National Commission for Human Rights had dropped from 836 in 2013 to 347 in 2018; while the Prosecutor’s Office had handled 42 possible cases of torture in 2013 and 32 cases in 2018.  One of the factors that had played a role in the reduction in cases of torture was training provided to the security forces and State officers.  Furthermore, the President of Mexico had repeatedly stated that he would never order the security forces to repress or commit human rights violations and that the new Government would not allow impunity to reign.  The national strategy of public security contained eight objectives, one of which was the full respect and promotion of human rights which was essential for the rule of law.

The national law for the registration of detention, expected to be adopted in June 2019, would provide for the setting up of a national registry of all detainees in the country.  This would be an important tool to ensure the prevention of torture.  All public security institutions would use harmonized procedures, and the system would allow access to detainee information by families, lawyers, and other interested parties.  A total of 1,400 minors in conflict with the law were detained in Mexico whose conditions of detention were fully aligned with international standards.

Mexico reiterated the full autonomy and independence of the National Commission for Human Rights, whose budgetary allocations were decided upon by the Senate.  The National Commission conducted annual diagnostic surveys of the federal penitentiary system, which included the assessment of the general conditions of detention through in situ visits and questionnaires sent to the prison administration, prison guards, and inmates and their families.

A mechanism to protect human rights defenders and journalists had been set up in July 2012.  A part of its board of governors was a Citizen Council composed of four human rights defenders and four journalists.  The mechanism facilitated cooperation between the federal and state entities in the implementation of protection measures for persons under risk and worked to strengthen the prevention by, inter alia, raising awareness on the importance of the work of defenders and journalists.

The legal and policy framework to address gender-based violence included the general law for gender equality, the law for access of women to a life free of violence, the national system for equality between women and men, the national system for the prevention and eradication of violence against women, and the programme for the prevention of domestic violence and gender-based violence.  Furthermore, the legislation in 32 federal states criminalized femicide, and there were 44 centres for justice for women in 27 federal states which provided comprehensive support to women, including referrals to shelters and specialized services.  During the 2015-2018 period, 2,745 femicides had been recorded; 709 sentences had been handed down between 2011 and 2017.  The National Commission to Address and Eradicate Violence against Women was in place.  The mechanism for the follow up of cases of sexual torture of women had been set up in 2015 and it embodied the State’s commitment to address the issue throughout the country.  The mechanism produced periodic reports which contained a diagnosis of sexual torture and proposed public policies to prevent it.

As for the questions raised on military jurisdiction, the Congress had approved in 2014 an amendment to the Military Court of Justice, thus excluding from the jurisdiction of military courts cases in which civilians were victims.  This enabled Mexico to comply with the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Turning to training activities to prevent torture, the delegation said that almost all the staff of the Prosecutor’s Office had been trained.  In the department of citizen security and protection, over 100,000 state and federal officials had received the relevant training, while over 1.7 million staff of the department of national defense had been trained over the past six years, including generals, supervisors, officials and foot soldiers.  The agreement signed with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in April 2019 contained, among others, points related to training and the evaluation of the impact of various training and capacity-building activities.

Mexico firmly believed that each recognized victim had the right to comprehensive redress.  The Executive Commission for the Attention to Victims had coordinated cases involving 2,949 direct and 754 indirect victims of torture and ill-treatment during the 2014 to 2018 period; of those 691 had been included in the National Registry of Victims.  Each victim was entitled to legal assistance provided through the Office of the Public Defender in which more than 1,000 defence lawyers worked.  To date, 51 resolutions of comprehensive redress to victims of torture to the tune of over $10 million had been made and 13 cases were currently being considered.  Mexico was a contributor to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Torture.

The principle of non-refoulement was enshrined in the law and Mexico never extradited, expelled, or deported individuals to another State if it had reason to believe that the person ran a risk of being tortured or forcibly disappeared.  The Criminal Code of Mexico provided for the competence of the country’s courts over its legal framework which enabled the prosecution of crimes which were not provided for in the national legislation but were a crime under an international treaty that Mexico was a party to.

Questions by Committee Experts

DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ-PINZÓN, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, remarked that the implementation of the general law against torture was still pending and asked the delegation to provide a timetable for the implementation of its components, for example the national prevention programme.  What was the reason for the harmonized protocol for the investigation of crimes of torture, and why did the investigation of such crimes not follow the usual investigative process of the Office of the Prosecutor?  The Co-Rapporteur wondered why the Government decided to cancel the future national surveys of individuals deprived of liberty and stressed that this was an important instrument in understanding the conditions of detention in the country.

With regard to ex officio pre-trial detention, the Co-Rapporteur was concerned that Mexican law did not provide judicial discretion to review cases on a regular basis, thus violating the essential norms of international law.  The dramatic situation of femicide in Ciudad Juárez continued.  Civil society organizations continued to experience serious problems in accessing migrant holding centres.  It was urgent to take measures to address impunity for acts of torture, the Co-Rapporteur said, urging the Government to make public statements at the highest levels that torture was not acceptable and would not be tolerated.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, took positive note of the reduction in the number of complaints of torture and asked the delegation to explain how the statistics were kept and who assessed the complaints.  What steps were being taken to discontinue the participation of the military in public security?  The Chairperson remarked that the number of deaths in detention that the delegation provided – 220 for a six-year period since 2013 – was rather low and asked the delegation to comment.  Commenting on the steps taken to strengthen independent forensic medical examination, Mr. Modvig remarked that the Istanbul Protocol examination were still not being fully applied in the country and they seemed often to fall short of the standards.  

Other Experts asked about steps and measures adopted to alleviate the hardship of juveniles held in detention in the Monterrey prison, and reiterated the concern about the adverse impact of the substantial role of the army in maintaining public order on fundamental rights and safeguards of persons deprived of liberty.

Replies by the Delegation

Concerning the implementation of the general law against torture, the delegation said that a number of civil society organizations and academic institutions had been invited to the upcoming meeting on the drafting of the national torture prevention programme.  Part of the national registry of detainees would be ready in a few weeks’ time, and meetings were ongoing with state-level prosecutors to ensure that all were linked up to the federal registry.

Explaining the specialized investigation protocols, the delegation said that the Office of the Prosecutor received all the cases, which it then allocated to specialized prosecutors who dealt with issues such as enforced disappearance, human trafficking, and torture.  The specialized investigation protocols were adapted to the specificity and complexity of each crime they addressed.

There were three levels of authority in Mexico, said the delegation; there were national and federal laws, while general laws directly stemmed from the Constitution and established the operating rules for all the authorities within the federal state.  International treaties held the highest place in the legal hierarchy in the country.  “Arraigo” had not been eradicated from the legislation but had been extensively legislated in order to limit its use to only the cases of most serious crimes, under Ministerial oversight.

The delegation said that the decline in the number of complaints of torture was observed in all three bodies which received complaints – the National Commission for Human Rights, the police force and the Office of the Prosecutor.  While this was not a complete victory, it was an observable trend, the delegate stressed.  

The recent constitutional reform had provided for the setting up of the National Guard, a security body made up of police officers; it was entirely civilian and was under civilian oversight.  The National Guard had been given a period of five years to fully develop and spread throughout the territory; in the meantime, the President could authorize the use of the army in the maintaining of public order.  Withdrawing the army from certain parts of the territory would be a mistake, for there were some areas where the complexity of the problems and lack of local capacity warranted the continued presence of the national armed forces.

Concluding Remarks

MARTA DELGADO PERALTA, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mexico, reiterated the firm commitment of the Government of Mexico to eradicate impunity and to ensure that its institutions were free from torture.  The new Government had received the mandate from the citizens who were tired of corruption, violations, and violence and that was why it had placed the respect of human rights at the top of its agenda.  There must be a change in culture, from one that deeply believed that torture was needed to one of the rule of law and the fight against impunity.  The Committee could help the State with its concluding observations and through sharing best practices from other countries.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Co-Rapporteur for Mexico, thanked the delegation and wished it all the best in its endeavours.  The Committee would select three urgent recommendations for follow up, on which the State party would need to report within a year.  All States parties were encouraged to also submit a review of the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations.

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