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Mexico: Torture worsens in times of pandemic - Executive Summary

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Mexico: Cases of torture increase with the pandemic

Mexico City - Geneva, 22 July 2021

Victims of torture are on the rise in Mexico, in a context aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our report on human rights in the country reveals an increase of prison overcrowding, police and army violence, as well as serious neglect of migrants' rights. A public policy is urgently needed to address the situation of thousands of people at high risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Prison overcrowding increased significantly in 2020 – by more than 14,000 people – resulting in 3456 known cases of Covid-19 infection among persons deprived of liberty as of 11 July 2021. Mexico has the fourth highest death score in the world due to Covid-19, without proper protective measures, detained people are on the front line of the pandemic.

Also of serious concern are reports of a systematic lack of attention to the basic needs of migrants and asylum-seekers. Migrant holding centres continue to fill up in a context of increasing securitisation of borders and migration controls. Use of force is recurrent, both at migrant holding centres and against migrant caravans.

Police and military violence have increased under the pretext of enforcing pandemic-related restrictions (curfews, mandatory use of masks, restrictions on movement, etc.). Protest actions in various regions of the country were also brutally repressed, with the emblematic case of the protests in Jalisco in June 2020. Protesters were arbitrarily detained, held incommunicado and subjected to torture (including sexual torture) and other ill-treatment.

The report published today summarises the findings of a virtual follow-up mission, conducted in February 2021, to verify whether the 2019 concluding observations of the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) to Mexico have been implemented. Among the key recommendations, the CAT urges Mexico to adopt and publish a National Programme to Prevent and Sanction Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The particularity of this mission is that instead of being delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was carried out online. "This is the first virtual mission we conducted,” highlights Olga Arnaiz Zhuravleva, representative of the National Network of Civil Human Rights Organisations "All Rights for All" (Red TDT). “The reception of various authorities who agreed to meet us online was positive, and we had the opportunity to speak with survivors who wanted to share their testimonies and frustrations.”

The report shows that these frustrations are increasing due to the lack of proper mechanisms to assist and provide redress to victims and to protect people who are at risk. We urge the authorities to take action to address these urgent needs.

"Thousands of complaints are piling up with derisory numbers of convictions or proper investigations. Yes, we recognise positive efforts by the authorities, but they are insufficient compared to the scale of the problem," regrets Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). "Above all we request a public explanation from the authorities on the status of the National Programme to Prevent and Sanction Torture. This programme is a vital instrument to resume dialogue with civil society, protect victims and fight impunity."

For more information, please contact:

In Geneva: Claire-Marie Germain, Digital Communications and Campaigns Officer, OMCT, cmg@omct.org

In Mexico: Eber Hutzil, in charge of communications, Red TDT, comunicacion@redtdt.org.mx, +52 1 55 1796 6731