UNITED MEXICAN STATES: Sexual violence routinely used as torture to secure "confessions" from women

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29 Jun 2016
[International Secretariat]

An unprecedented Amnesty International investigation of 100 women arrested in Mexico reveals that they are routinely sexually abused by the security forces who want to secure confessions and boost figures in an attempt to show that they are tackling rampant organized crime.

All of the 100 women held in a federal prisons who reported torture or other ill-treatment to Amnesty International said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or psychological abuse during their arrest and interrogation by municipal, state or federal police officers or members of the Army and Navy. Seventy-two said they were sexually abused during their arrest or in the hours that followed. Thirty-three reported being raped.

Sixty-six of the women said they had reported the abuse to a judge or other authorities but investigations were opened in only 22 cases. Amnesty International is not aware of any criminal charges arising from these investigations.

These women's stories paint an utterly shocking snapshot of the level of torture against women in Mexico. Sexual violence used as a form of torture seems to have become a routine part of interrogations.

Women from marginalized backgrounds are the most vulnerable in Mexico's so-called 'war on drugs'. They are usually seen as easy targets by authorities who are often more eager to show they are putting people behind bars than to ensure they are finding the real criminals.

Most of the women in prison who spoke to Amnesty International said they were sexually abused, beaten, electro-shocked, touched and groped during detention and interrogations. The vast majority have been accused of organized crime or drug related offences. Many were presented to the media as "criminals" straight after they were forced to "confess" to the crimes. Most come from low income backgrounds, which makes them less likely to be able to afford an effective defense.

26-year-old Mónica was gang-raped by six police officers, received electroshocks to her genitals, was suffocated with a plastic bag and had her head plunged into a bucket of water on 12 February 2013. Security officials tried to force her to confess to being part of a criminal gang. She was also forced to watch as her brother and husband were tortured in front of her.

After the torture, police took Mónica, her brother and her husband to the Federal Attorney General´s Office. On the way, her husband died in her arms as a result of the torture he had suffered. Afterwards, Mónica was forced to sign a "confession" saying she was part of a drug cartel.

Despite a report by the Mexican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in August 2014 confirming Mónica's torture, none of the perpetrators have been charged. She is still in prison, awaiting the outcome of her trial on charges of involvement in organized crime. In April 2016, the CNDH issued a recommendation that a criminal investigation be opened into the case. Monica remains in prison.

The authorities must take urgent action to address and prevent the use of sexual violence and torture against women. A new federal taskforce on "sexual torture of women" was recently established within the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB). The mechanism brings together federal authorities responsible for the prevention and investigation of torture. However, in the nine months since its establishment, it has remained dormant and has made no progress in any of the just three cases brought before it.

The Mexican Congress is currently debating a long overdue draft General Law on Torture. While positive elements have been introduced, legislators must amend the relevant provisions to reinforce the exclusionary rule, which mandates that all evidence obtained under torture or other ill-treatment is excluded from criminal proceedings, except in cases against an alleged perpetrator of torture or other ill-treatment as proof that the torture occurred.

28 June 2016

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