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Claudia's good news is a victory we can all share

Posted in: Torture, Mexico
    Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 11:01
    Photo Credit: 
    Crystal Giesbrecht/Amnesty International

    By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada

    The messages that arrived in my inbox could not be ignored! They were bursting with positive emotion as they told of an important victory over injustice in Mexico.

    The texts were sent by Claudia Medina, a woman whose experience of torture and persecution had so moved me and other members of an Amnesty Canada delegation that visited Mexico last September.

    When we met Claudia five months ago, she was living with the traumatic scars of what was done to her while she was detained at a naval base in 2012: the beatings, the hot peppers forced up her nose, the electric shocks, the sexual assault. Her torturers added psychological torture, threatening to rape her with a metal bar and bring in her children to the torture chamber unless Claudia “confessed” to involvement in an armed, criminal gang.

    Not surprisingly, Claudia signed the “confession” she was not allowed to read and hung her head as she was presented as a dangerous criminal at a press conference by security forces anxious to show results in its "war on drugs".

    When she was finally taken to court, Claudia retracted the statement she had been forced to sign and informed the court about how she had been tortured. Some of the charges against her were dropped but she was still charged with the serious crime of carrying an illegal weapon. Claudia was released on bail pending the outcome of judicial proceedings against her.

    Claudia and her children remained under a weight of unrelenting fear. Security forces had claimed in their evidence to the prosecutor to have arrested her in possession of firearms with an armed gang. Claudia knew only too well that all-too-often justice officials in Mexico rely on fabricated evidence, along with “admissions” extracted under torture.

    But now five months later, as her excited words appeared on my screen, Claudia had fantastic news to share. The charges against her have now all been thrown out. For Claudia, most important of all is the vindication that she was speaking the truth when she denied committing the crimes of which she was accused.

    “It has been so, so difficult for me living under the accusations against me,” Claudia said to me. “I was worried that I would never be cleared because I was up against a monster, the state. But now it has been proven that I am innocent and that I was speaking the truth. It is such a relief for me and my children.”

    This is a victory for Claudia, her family, her legal team and the thousands of Amnesty supporters who added their signatures to a petition to Mexico’s Attorney General.

    “Please pass on my gratitude to everyone who supported me in Canada,” Claudia asked me. “The charges would not have been dismissed without the help of all of you.

    Claudia asked me to share another thank you. "When we met last September, you brought me a beautiful banner with messages of solidarity from Canada," she wrote. "I hung it on the wall across from my bed and I would look at it when I was feeling really down amidst so much injustice. Please tell everyone that it has given me the strength to carry on seeing that I have your support.”

    This is the second time in four months that we can share good news about our Stop Torture campaign in Mexico.

    Last September, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General Alex Neve met with Ángel Amílcar Colón in a jail in northern Mexico where he had languished in pre-trial detention for 5 years after being tortured into “confessing” to crimes he too had not committed. Amnesty International rallied around Ángel, declaring him a prisoner of conscience and mobilizing supporters to raise their voices to call for his release. In October, Ángel was set free unconditionally. The Attorney General agreed to drop the fabricated charges against him.

    Dropping unfair charges against Ángel Amílcar Colón and Claudia Medina are necessary, positive, welcome steps. But there is no doubt that much more is needed. Torture is a crime in Mexico. Yet both Ángel and Claudia are still waiting for Mexican authorities to respond to their denunciations and bring to justice the state agents who subjected them to torture. Only this will send the message that torture will no longer be tolerated in Mexico. Only this will protect others from the horror that Ángel and Claudia suffered.

    “I want punishment for those who tortured me and that they don’t go on torturing others,” says Claudia, with the quiet, determined courage that impressed me from the moment we met last September. “From what I saw in that Marine facility where I was detained, many people are being tortured. I am not going to allow even one other woman to be tortured in Mexico.”

    It’s a just dream that can come true, if we all speak up to make it a reality.