208. The second periodic report of Mexico (CAT/C/17/Add.3) was considered by the Committee at its 130th and 131st meetings, on 17 November 1992 (see CAT/C/SR.130, 131 and 131/Add.2).
209. The report was introduced by the representative of the reporting State, who described the most important legislative, administrative and judicial measures taken to prevent and punish torture during the period 1988 to 1992. In this connection, he drew attention to the establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights in 1990 and its acquisition of constitutional status in 1992. The representative also outlined the activities of that Commission. They included, first, the investigation of complaints of human rights violations, such as allegations of torture. In this regard, he indicated that the Commission made public recommendations to the competent authorities and could request information from them in the course of its investigations. Secondly, the Commission made proposals for action, which included the adoption of administrative measures and the amendment of national legislation, to improve the State party's compliance with its international human rights obligations. Thirdly, the Commission was active in developing awareness of human rights for the public, in general, and in providing training and education in the area of the prevention of human rights violations for administration of justice officials, in particular.
210. With regard to particular legislative reforms, the representative informed the Committee that the Federal Executive had endorsed a number of proposals made by the National Commission on Human Rights, which had led to changes in the Federal and State Penal Codes and in the Federal and Federal District Codes of Penal Procedure and that those changes had been approved by Congress. Following another proposal by the Commission, draft legislation had been introduced to amend the Federal Act on the Responsibilities of Public Servants with a view to making it obligatory for the latter to provide information that the Commission requested in the course of its investigations. The representative also informed the Committee that the Congress had found it necessary to amend the 1986 Federal Act to Prevent and Punish Torture. This had resulted in the introduction of the new Federal Act to Prevent and Punish Torture which had expanded the procedural rights of persons under investigation for an offence and made provision for the benefits of a pardon or amnesty to be extended to the most needy. The new Act also provided for the non-admittance as evidence of both confessions made to police authorities and statements made to the Public Prosecutor's Department or judicial authority without the presence of the accused person's defence counsel or confidant, and where appropriate, interpreter. In addition, the new Act provided for the harsher penalization of those found guilty of torture, through the imposition of a possible 3-to-12-year prison sentence and their obligation, in certain cases, to meet the legal advice, medical and other costs incurred to provide redress for injury and compensation to the victim or his dependants.
211. With regard to administrative reforms, the representative made mention of the various programmes and procedures which had been introduced by the Attorney General's Office to ensure better treatment of detainees and respect for their human rights. Such action included the establishment of an Internal Control Unit, within the Office of the Attorney General, to detect, investigate and punish torture in order to prevent the impunity of offenders.
212. Finally, the representative provided details of the breakdown of the number of complaints of torture during the period from June 1990 to June 1992, which indicated that such complaints had fallen in number. He also made mention of the number of investigations, criminal proceedings and recommendations for action which had emerged from complaints of human rights violations. In this regard, he stated, inter alia, that from June 1990 to May 1992 the Commission had made 34 recommendations concerning torture to the Attorney General's Office. In 13 cases, criminal proceedings had been instituted. Those 13 cases had involved 37 public officials who had been imprisoned pending trial.
213. The members of the Committee expressed appreciation to the State party for its informative report and introductory statement. They also welcomed the various measures taken by the State party to combat torture which, they considered, were a reflection of its political commitment to comply with the provisions of the Convention. However, they expressed concern at the repots they had received from non-governmental organizations which appeared to point to the continued practice of torture, particularly by the judicial police. It also appeared that confessions occupied an important place in the system of evidence and that the police felt obliged to obtain confessions even through means of torture. In this connection, it was stated, inter alia, that an example of that endemic practice was that State officials prosecuted for having practised torture themselves complained that they were forced to confess under torture. Members of the Committee observed with concern that the judicial police, in particular those officials who were responsible for acts of torture, seemed to enjoy a high degree of impunity in Mexico.
214. With regard to matters of a general nature, members of the Committee requested clarification on how legislation and other measures were actually applied under the Mexican federal system. They also requested further information on the work of the National Commission on Human Rights regarding, in particular, the Commission's classification of complaints; the number of the complaints that it received which were related to torture; and the follow-up to the Commission's recommendations regarding those complaints. They were also interested to know more about the Commission's conciliation process, which had led to settlements out of court, and requested clarification as to whether that process might lead to impunity for those responsible for torture-related offences. In addition, reference was made to the statement of the National Commission on Human Rights, contained in the State party's report, according to which in many cases involving torture there was no evidence or indication of the alleged torture and that many forms of torture left no visible marks that might merit a medical certificate. In this regard, it was indicated that although it took time to detect traces and effects of torture, it was possible for physicians who had received specialized training on the subject of the treatment of torture victims to uncover reliable proof or indications of torture. In addition, further information was sought on any reports received on the programmes of the Office of the Attorney General, and the State party's intention of making a declaration under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention.
215. With reference to article 1 of the Convention, it was asked why the new Act to Prevent and Punish Torture did not use the exact wording of article 1 of the Convention in defining torture.
216. In relation to article 4 of the Convention, members of the Committee requested further information on the penalties imposed on those found guilty of acts of torture, particularly with regard to the 266 officials referred to in the report. In addition, reference was made to the report of the National Commission on Human Rights, which indicated that, contrary to legislation and to article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention, there had been a number of cases in which persons responsible for violations had not been punished. It was observed that such a statement reinforced the impression that those responsible for torture were enjoying impunity.
217. Concerning the application of article 10 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to receive further information, on the training of medical personnel. In this connection, the importance of informing doctors about methods of torture, means of diagnosis and the possibilities of rehabilitating torture victims was emphasized. It was also indicated that doctors specialized in that field could assist the National Commission of Human Rights in its work and in combating the impunity of human rights violators. In addition, clarification was requested as to whether the contents of training manuals for the police were in harmony with the new measures adopted by the State party to prevent and combat torture.
218. In respect of article 11 of the Convention, further information was sought as to a detainee's right to a medical examination.
219. With reference to articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, members of the Committee sought further information on the procedures of the National Commission on Human Rights for investigating into complaints of torture and how such procedures worked in practice. In this connection, concern was expressed, inter alia, at the difficulties involved in investigating complaints where victims could not identify the persons responsible for violating their human rights.
220. In connection with article 15 of the Convention, the attention of the Government of Mexico was drawn to information indicating that there were repeated instances in Mexican courts in which statements made to the police were admitted as evidence and giving greater credence than subsequent statements in which they were denied. Furthermore, Amnesty International and other non-governmental organizations had reported many such cases in which evidence of torture had been produced, but there appeared to be no review of the original confessions made by the victims under police interrogation.
221. Replying to the questions raised, the representative of Mexico indicated that his Government was prepared to provide additional information on matters raised by the Committee and emphasized his Government's commitment to the task of putting an end to torture. The representative clarified that the National Commission on Human Rights was an independent body with branches in various states and regions of the country. It consisted of representatives from various professional backgrounds and its activities were interrelated with those of the ombudsman, social bodies and non-governmental organizations. Actions of the Commission were not simply confined to investigations but extended to prosecutions and sentences. Arrest warrants followed from recommendations contained in the Commission's reports. The Commission's report for the period from December 1992 to June 1992, in particular, included information on the 4,503 complaints received and on violations of the rights of journalists. It also provided a detailed account of 110 recommendations made and an indication of the follow-up to the recommendations. The report also presented programmes concerning disappeared persons, the prison system and a special programme to examine violations of the rights of journalists. The representative pointed out that the reports of the National Commission on Human Rights, particularly its special reports, constituted a way of bringing pressure to bear on those responsible for torture and ill-treatment by stimulating the awareness of the public at large. Nevertheless, the impact of the new machinery could not be felt immediately. The authorities were encountering resistance at the local level as local bodies did not always find it easy to accept central State supervision and to be made accountable for their actions.
222. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the representative provided information on prosecutions and sentences that followed investigations into human rights abuses. For example, the person responsible for the ill-treatment of a journalist named Rodolfo Morales had been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. With reference to the enforcement of sentences, he indicated that proceedings took a long time and illustrated this point with the case of Richard Lopez who had been tortured and died as a result in July 1990, yet those found guilty of that act had been sentenced in October 1992. They had been sentenced to 44 years' imprisonment for homicide and abuse of authority.
223. Concerning article 10 of the Convention, the representative informed the Committee that a National Day against Torture had been proclaimed in Mexico. He also indicated that efforts were being made to stimulate awareness of human rights and that although it was difficult for such efforts to take root, non-governmental organizations were providing valuable support in this regard.
224. In connection with article 11 of the Convention, the representative explained that information on the rights of detainees and the remedies available to them for the protection of their rights had been widely disseminated. In this regard, mention was made of the circular from the Procurator General which stated that every detainee had to undergo a medical examination at the time of his arrest, and of a press communiqué, issued by the Office of the Attorney General, which had indicated that a medical examination of a detainee would be given at the time of his arrest or imprisonment and upon his release.
225. With regard to articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, the representative pointed out that under paragraph 31 of the Organic Law, a complaint of human rights abuse could be admitted, even if a complainant were unable to identify the State officials who had violated his rights, if the subsequent investigation made it possible to establish responsibility.
Conclusions and recommendations
226. The Committee expressed its sincere thanks to the Government of Mexico for its well-documented periodic report, and for the frank explanations provided orally in response to questions raised.
227. The Committee noted with satisfaction the many legislative, judicial and administrative measures that had been adopted by that Government with a view to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. It noted in particular the establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights with the status of a constitutional body, the promulgation of the Federal Act to Prevent and Punish Torture, the amendment of the Federal Code of Penal Procedure, the various measures taken by the Procurator General of the Republic, as well as the many human rights education, training and information programmes.
228. However, the Committee noted with deep concern that, according even to the official sources, an extremely large number of acts of torture of all kinds were perpetrated in Mexico despite the existence of a legal and administrative act designed to prevent and punish them. In that respect, the number of torturers that have been punished is small in comparison to the number of complaints.
229. The Committee hoped that the Government's political will and the various measures adopted will have the desired effect, and in particular that those guilty of acts of torture will not remain unpunished. The Committee would be grateful if the Government of Mexico transmitted to it, within 18 months, additional information on the specific measures already adopted, in particular on the punishment of those responsible for acts of torture.