By Josefina Salomón, Amnesty International in Mexico
The phone rang at four in the afternoon, exactly as scheduled. The ringing heightened the tension in the small living room of the 1950s house in Mexico City.
“Will you accept a call from the West Federal Prison?” said the voice at the end of the line.
“Yes, of course. Yes, I will,” Blanca responded, visibly nervous, as if she hadn’t done this before.
The toxic combination of a flawed judicial system, untrained police officers and widespread impunity are encouraging arbitrary detentions and leading to torture, executions and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
False suspicions: Arbitrary detentions by police in Mexico demonstrates how police across Mexico routinely detain people arbitrarily in order to extort them. They also often plant evidence in an effort to prove they are doing something to tackle crime or to punish individuals for their human rights activism. The report is based on confidential interviews with members of the police and the justice system.
“The justice system in Mexico is completely unfit for purpose and is therefore failing the people massively,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner at Amnesty International Canada
It was a year ago that Amnesty International Canada organized a visit to Ottawa by courageous Mexican human rights defenders. Among them was Pilar Arrese (above right), of the highly respected Miguel Augustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, an organization known as Centro Prodh with three decades of exemplary work with victims of horrendous abuses in their quest for truth, justice and reforms to protect human rights.
At meetings with Canada's then Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion (left), officials in the Prime Minister's Office and MPs that included Elizabeth May (above), Pilar provided powerful evidence of a dire human rights crisis in Mexico and the involvement of the country's security forces.
Responding to a NYT’s article that disclosed the use of software to spy on Mexican journalists and human rights defenders, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:
“This new chilling evidence confirms that Mexican journalists and human rights defenders are a target of illegal practices designed to interfere and hinder their work. These findings are consistent with Amnesty International's previous research and show a clear pattern of illegal use of technology in an attempt to control any criticism against those in power.”
“Journalists and human rights defenders constantly put their lives at risk in order to defend everybody’s rights and to inform the public. This is not a crime and surveillance into these activities is illegal and cannot be justified. These actions should be promptly and adequately investigated.”
By Erika Guevara-Rosas
The tragic news of the brutal murder of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a Mexican journalist renowned for his fearless reporting of the drug war wreaking havoc across Mexico, has sent shockwaves through the country.
His journalism was particularly well-known in his home town of Culiacán, in Sinaloa. There, thousands of people are virtual hostages of a war between ruthless drug cartels and a government that is at best, unable to protect its people and, at worse, in collusion with those it claims to be fighting against.
Javier was gunned down by unidentified men near the office of Riodoce, the weekly newspaper he founded and one of the few in the state still reporting on the wave of deaths sweeping through the area.
The killing of a journalist in Mexico - the fifth such incident this year -highlights the alarming situation of freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International.
Javier Valdez Cárdenas, founder of Río Doce media and reporter for La Jornada and El Noroeste, was shot dead a few metres away from his office in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa. Javier was known for his work covering organized crime and drug trafficking. In 2011, he received an international prize for press freedom from the Committee to Protect Journalists. This is the second assassination of a journalist from La Jornada in 2017.
“Being a journalist in Mexico seems more like a death sentence than a profession. The continuing bloodshed that the authorities prefer to ignore has created a deep void that is damaging the right to freedom of expression in the country,” said Tania Reneaum, director of Amnesty International Mexico.
The killing of an activist leading the search for her daughter and thousands of others in Tamaulipas, Mexico, reveals the danger which those searching for the more than 30,000 disappeared persons in the country face every day, said Amnesty International.
Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez was killed on the night of 10 May in the state of Tamaulipas in northern Mexico. Miriam was known for her work with groups searching for the disappeared, organizations made up primarily of relatives of victims of enforced disappearance and disappearance at the hands of non-state actors.
A bill on enforced disappearances approved today by the Mexican Senate could represent a step forward in the fight to tackle the country’s human rights crisis. Now all that is needed for the bill to become law is the approval of the Chamber of Deputies.
“The definitive approval of the bill on enforced disappearances is crucial in order to begin to seriously address the nightmare which thousands of families face, searching for their loved ones in the face of serious risks and carrying out work which is the responsibility of the authorities”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“This bill is a welcome advance, although there is room for improvement. It will come into existence within the context of a deficient search system and its implementation will require serious political commitment to grant justice, truth and reparation to the many families who have dedicated years to searching for their relatives”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
Mexico’s new General Law on Torture is a welcome step forward to tackle the country´s human rights crisis. Authorities must now ensure all those responsible for these heinous crimes under international law face justice, Amnesty International said today.
Mexican Congress today finally passed the General Law on Torture which was promised over two years ago by the Mexican president after a national public outcry following massive human rights violations in the case of 43 disappeared students. The Mexican Senate today approved a final version which had been debated by both chambers of Congress.
“Unless the Mexican authorities make a real effort to ensure all those responsible for the thousands of cases of torture reported every year across the country are brought to justice, this law will be nothing but words on paper. We must not allow this to continue to be the case,” said Tania Reneaum, Director at Amnesty International Mexico.
Torture is a widespread practice in Mexico. People are routinely tortured in an attempt to force them to sign false “confessions”.
A call for appeals to improve the General Law on Torture was sent to the Urgent Action Network on January 16th 2017.
On 19 April the lower house of Mexican congress approved their version of the General Law on Torture and sent it back to the Senate for final approval before it becomes law. This final version is an improvement of the earlier draft, and all of the four regressive articles Amnesty International was concerned about have been improved upon.
A General Law on Torture was drafted during 2015 and 2016 and presented in the Senate due to pressure from civil society given the widespread problem of torture in Mexico. This law will replace the existing federal and state laws on the issue and apply nationwide.
An Amnesty International team recently returned from the US-Mexico border where they investigated how President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and border security threaten to affect thousands of people.
This is what they found.
What did you find at the border?
We spent almost two weeks visiting towns and cities on both sides of the US-Mexico border, talking to migrants, asylum seekers, human rights activists and government officials. We travelled the entire length of the land border, something that no other international human rights organization has done since Trump took office. We knew this was essential to get a clear picture of what was happening in what has become one of the most talked-about places on earth.
We were surprised by what we found.
Most places were quiet – but the kind of edgy quiet before a big storm kicks in. Because President Trump’s executive orders are setting the scene for what could turn into a full-blown refugee crisis.
By Madeleine Penman, Mexico Researcher at Amnesty International
The sight of one of the most infamous borders on earth – roughly 1,000 kilometers of porous metal fence dividing lives, hopes and dreams between the USA and Mexico, is undoubtedly overwhelming, but not in the way we expected it to be.
While it has been one of the most talked about issues since last year’s USA election campaign, the stretch of land that separates the USA and Mexico now lies eerily quiet.
The killing of the third journalist in a month in Mexico raises new alarms about the state of free expression in the country, said Amnesty International.
Miroslava Breach, a reporter for La Jornada and el Norte de Juarez, was shot dead while she was in her car outside her home in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Miroslava was known for reporting on issues including organised crime and drug trafficking.
“In Mexico a ‘war’ is raging against journalists. The country has turned into a no-go zone for anyone brave enough to talk about issues including the increasing power of organised crime and the collusion of these groups with the authorities,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“Journalism should not be a life threatening profession. Instead of looking the other way and ignoring this bloodshed, the Mexican authorities must take concrete measures to protect journalists and anyone daring to talk about the country’s ills. This crime should be urgently investigated and those responsible, brought to justice.”
The release from prison of three women who were subjected to rape and other forms of tortured in 2011 by marines to force them to “confess” to crimes brings a glimmer of hope to hundreds of others who are held behind bars unfairly across Mexico, said Amnesty International.
Denise Lovato, Korina Urtrera and Wendy Díaz each spent more than five years in prison. They walked out of jail in the State of Morelos this morning after a judged acquitted them and ordered their immediate release.
“Denise, Korina and Wendy should have never been imprisoned in the first place. Their harrowing stories show the tragic state of human rights in Mexico, where security forces routinely sexually abuse women to secure ‘confessions’ in an attempt to show that they are tackling rampant organized crime,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
The stories of Denise, Korina and Wendy are featured in a recent groundbreaking Amnesty International investigation into the use of torture and other sexual violence against women in Mexico.