Information transmitted to the Government and replies received
381. By letter dated 26 August 1993 the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received reports according to which torture and ill-treatment continued to be practised by the judicial police during the initial stages of a criminal investigation as a means of extracting confessions from detainees. Moreover, these confessions continued to be accepted as evidence by the majority of courts. The most commonly used methods were beatings, introduction of carbonated water into the nose, suffocation by placing a plastic bag over the head or immersing the head in water, electric shocks and death threats.
382. According to the information received, the practice of torture and ill-treatment was facilitated by the fact that the perpetrators were rarely prosecuted. Even in cases where a recommendation had been issued by the National Human Rights Commission, the recommendation had been ignored and the persons responsible had gone unpunished. Cases of indemnification of victims were rare, even where the authorities had recognized the existence of torture.
383. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of the existence of a draft text to revise various articles of the Constitution, which called, inter alia, for an increase in the period of preventive detention from the 24-hour limit currently in force to 72 hours. According to the sources, this reform would represent a setback in the protection of the rights of detainees and would facilitate the practice of torture and ill-treatment. The individual cases referred to in the following paragraphs were communicated to the Government.
384 Rubén Medina Rubio was arrested on 23 November 1989 in the town of Jalapa and taken to the premises of the judicial police of the Federal District located in Médico Militar street, Mexico City. It was reported that both at the time of his arrest and during his transfer he was severely beaten for refusing to confess his involvement in a kidnapping and homicide case. Also arrested was Angel Chávez Sánchez who, under torture - as corroborated by medical certificates and photographs - reportedly implicated Mr. Medina in the crimes with which he had been charged. Mr. Chávez was reported to have retracted his statement before the Eighth Criminal Court of the Federal District. According to the information received, Mr. Chávez's original statement constitutes the only evidence on the basis of which Mr. Medina was sentenced to 37 years in prison.
385. Manuel Manríquez San Agustín, a member of the Otomí indigenous community of Ranchería Piedra Blanca, Tutotepec, state of Hidalgo, was arrested without a warrant by members of the judicial police of the Federal District on 2 June 1990 in Mexico City. During the four days in which he was kept incommunicado he was reported to have been severely beaten and subjected to suffocation and electric shocks. Finally, he was forced to sign a confession in Spanish, despite the fact that he did not understand the language.
386. Pablo María Jonathan Molinet Aguilar, an 18-year-old student, was arrested on 24 March 1992 at Salamanca, Guanajuato, by members of the State judicial police. He was reported to have been severely beaten, threatened with death and forced to sign a blank confession. In spite of this, the government procurator's office formally accused him of murder. In view of these circumstances, a complaint was lodged with the National Human Rights Commission in March 1992, which issued, one year later, a recommendation calling upon the authorities of the state of Guanajuto to carry out an investigation of the claims that Mr. Molinet was the victim of illegal detention and torture.
387. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of an incident which took place on 29 March 1993 in the town of San Isidro el Ocotal in the municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, in which 13 members of the Tzotzil indigenous community were arrested by members of the army and accused of the murder of two soldiers. According to the information received, the above-mentioned members of the indigenous community were forced, under torture and without an interpreter, to confess their participation in the acts of which they were accused. Though upon their release without charges two days later all of them showed marks of the treatment to which they had been subjected, none of the persons responsible seem to had been prosecuted nor the victims indemnified.
388. On 11 October 1993 the Government sent the Special Rapporteur a copy of the recommendation issued by the National Commission for Human Rights on 12 May 1993 on the above case, according to which, the arbitrary detention of and the ill-treatment inflicted upon the above-mentioned members of the Tzotzil community by agents of the judicial police were established. It was, therefore, recommended that legal proceedings should be initiated against the latter.
389. The Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal to the Government on 4 May 1993 on behalf of Luis Alfonso Luz Flores and José Martín Escarcega Solís, reported to have been kept in incommunicado detention since 22 April 1993 at the treatment area of the South Remand prison, Mexico City. Fears were expressed that they might be subjected to torture.
390. On 26 July 1993 the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that Luis Alfonso Luz Flores, a prisoner at the South Remand prison was classified on the basis of his criminal record as a persistent offender with signs of verbal and physical aggressiveness, poor self-control, strong criminal proclivities, poor social adaptability and serious anti-social tendencies. As for José Martín Escarcega Solis, the Government stated that he was imprisoned in the same cell as Luis Alfonso Luz Flores and that he was sentenced to six years in prison in 1991 for robbery. On 25 April 1993, 284 "Roche 2" pills were confiscated from the two prisoners, who admitted that the pills belonged to them. For this reason they were taken to the special treatment area and a complaint was filed with the Attorney-General's Office on 6 May 1993. Medical certificates dated 25 April 1993 were attached stating that Escárcega Solis bore no marks of recent injuries, whereas Luz Flores had a light scar on the left shoulder.
391. Another urgent appeal was transmitted to the Government on 19 May 1993 regarding Olga Torres Hernández, Roberto Palacios Sánchez, Manuel Escalante Magos, Alicia Enriqueta Altamirano Jacinto, Froylan Martínez Chagoya, Cirilo Hernández Rubio and Juan González Hernández. According to the reports, they were arrested on 16 May 1993 while demonstrating in Mexico City in support of a hunger strike by prisoners of the Reclusorio Preventivo Norte. Fears were expressed that they might be subjected to torture while held in incommunicado detention.
392. With respect to this case, the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that on 17 May 1993 some 30 people had visited the office of the National Commission for Human Rights to express their concern at the fact that a group of citizens had been evicted, apparently by personnel from the Secretariat General for Highways and Road Safety, from the place in which they were conducting a demonstration and hunger strike, and that their whereabouts were unknown. Subsequently, the Secretary-General for Highways and Road Safety had informed the National Commission that Mr. Torres Hernández, Mr. Palacio Sánchez, Mr. Escalante Magos and Mr. Altamirano Jacinto had been freed that afternoon, and that they had been taken to the Cuauhtémoc police station because they had committed administrative offences. This information had been corroborated by the complainants on 18 May 1993. The latter had also informed the National Commission on 3 June 1993 that the problem of the hunger strike had been solved two weeks previously.
393. The Government also informed the Special Rapporteur that in the interview with the citizens who sought the help of the National Commission for Human Rights in determining the whereabouts of their relations and friends, it had been established that they had contacted the National Commission not in order to lodge a complaint, but to request urgent assistance. They had been informed that if they wished to lodge a complaint concerning the violation of human rights, they should do so by reporting specific facts and indicating their wish that those facts should be investigated. The citizens had said that if they decided to lodge a complaint, they would do so at a later date. As yet they had not done so.
394. The Special Rapporteur notes the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture adopted after its consideration of Mexico's periodic report under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (A/48/44, paras. 226-229). He also notes with appreciation the seriousness with which the National Human Rights Commission appears to have considered complaints it has received. In view, in particular, of the concern of the Committee against Torture about the small number of torturers who have been punished, the Special Rapporteur would appreciate learning what official action has been taken in cases where the National Human Rights Commission has recommended official investigation and/or legal proceedings.