Mission to Mexico
"Out of Control":
Amnesty International Mission to Mexico: September 8-13.
The purpose of the mission was to draw attention both within Mexico and worldwide to the widespread and unchecked use of torture in Mexico by military and police by:
- Releasing “Out of Control,” a new Amnesty International report documenting cases of torture throughout Mexico and the measures needed to Stop Torture;
- Publicizing report findings at events throughout Mexico; and
- Discussing report findings and recommendations with Mexican authorities.
It was also an opportunity to shine a light on the cases of torture survivors whose struggles for justice are ongoing, including prisoner of conscience Angel Colon, who we visited in prison. See video of Angel Colon. And it was a chance to listen to and learn from torture survivors and human rights defenders in Mexico and stand in solidarity with them.
A highlight of the mission was a visit with torture survivor Claudia Medina Tamariz. Amnesty members have been campaigning on Claudia’s to help hold her torturers to account. During the mission we shared messages of solidarity from activists across Canada, and heard directly from Claudia what our support meant to her and what we can continue doing to stand with her as she continues her quest for justice.
The Mexico Diaries
Our mission delegates blogged from the field to keep you up to date on what they were seeing, hearing, and what you can do to Stop Torture in Mexico. And the stories from Mexico continue ...
Valentina’s story is one of courage and inspiration
By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner with Amnesty International Canada
How often do you get the chance to sit down with a hero whose courageous actions make change happen where it is least expected? I got just that opportunity when I travelled to a small town in Mexico (unnamed for security reasons) to meet up with Valentina Rosendo Cantú.
Like other Me’phaa Indigenous women from beautiful Guerrero State, Valentina is small in stature. But I can tell you that she has the courage of a giant.
In 2002, Valentina was washing clothes in a stream when an army patrol arrived. They demanded information about people they accused of subversion. Valentina knew nothing about what they were asking. She barely understood the Spanish they spoke. She was just 17 years old. The soldiers proceeded to torture and rape her.
Ángel Colón is free!
Ángel Amílcar Colón, tortured into "confessing" to crimes he did not commit and unjustly imprisoned for 5 years, has been released from jail!
Thanks to the efforts of his legal team at Centro Prodh and activists in Mexico, Canada and around the world who raised their voices for justice, a man can now return to his family and his community. Never doubt that raising our voices for rights and justice can make a difference! Ángel Amílcar is free!
When solidarity gives a family the strength to carry on
By Tim Carpentier, an Amnesty activist who lives in Toronto
Solidarity. I’ve long known that solidarity is a foundational principle of Amnesty’s work, but my conception of what it actually means changed while in Mexico for an activism conference. I, and my colleagues from Amnesty Canada (Alex Neve, Kathy Price, Crystal Giesbrecht, and Andrea Oakunsheyld), had the rare privilege of meeting someone on whose behalf we campaign, Brenda Rangel Ortíz, and she changed my outlook on activism.
Brenda Rangel Ortíz is up against seemingly insurmountable odds as she continues to search for her brother, Héctor Rangel Ortíz, who was disappeared after being stopped by the police on 10 November 2009 in the city of Monclova, Coahuila state.
Brenda told us how the official investigation is going nowhere, and conveyed the frustration that accompanies the process of trying to find answers in a broken system.
A shocking attack on students has ignited Mexico and must spur us to action too
By Kathy Price, Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada
The photos arrived in a steady stream on my Facebook feed, a flood of images too numerous to include here - impossible to ignore. From the wide boulevards of Mexico’s capital to the streets of small towns across the country, women and men, young and old, thousands and thousands of them, marched in protest, united in their outrage about what was done in Guerrero State.
On September 26, 80 students of a rural teacher-training college had come to the town of Iguala to collect money for their studies, a common practice as young people from marginalized Indigenous and farming communities rely on donations to pay for food and supplies. The students were leaving town in three buses when they were blocked by municipal police who opened fire without warning. A number of students were injured in the gunfire, at least one of them fatally. More than 20 were taken away by police but authorities later denied any knowledge of them. When journalists arrived and the remaining students, in shock, began to tell what had happened, an unmarked vehicle approached and gunmen in civilian clothes opened fire again. More students were killed, as well as several people who happened to be in the area. Others disappeared.
Solidarity and justice in the struggle to stop torture in Mexico
by Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
-Mexico City, 15 September 2014.
We passed over to Claudia Medina Tamariz a collection of messages from Amnesty supporters across Canada
We could not have had a more powerful affirmation of how important solidarity is in our human rights work.
We passed over to Claudia Medina Tamariz a collection of messages from Amnesty supporters across Canada; greeting cards, letters, handwritten notes, and drawings. We showed her some of the colourful messages that will be among the large number of petitions and letters turned over to Mexican officials later this month. And we unfolded a vibrant yellow banner full of handprints and a message of solidarity, from an event held in Toronto in June.
Her smile became brighter and brighter as she took it all in.
The struggle against torture: “Don’t let down your guard”
by Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
- September 8, 2014, from Guadalajara, Mexico
The prison we were about to visit loomed large and intimidating
It had been a 2 ½ hour drive from Guadalajara. As we approached the ominously named prison we were about to visit, CEFERESO Number 4 (which stands for the Federal Centre for Social Rehabilitation), it loomed large and intimidating at the bottom of one last hill.
But we had really only just begun our arrival. We spent the next hour going through the most extensive series of endless security checks I’ve been through in any prison visit, anywhere. It included a stamp on our forearms which only showed up under a special light, which we had to show again on our way out to demonstrate that none of us had stayed behind and allowed a prisoner to slip out in our place. There was, in fact, far more visible security than I have experienced on any of the visits I’ve made to Guantánamo Bay.
And I almost failed the test. We had paid very close attention to the detailed instructions we’d received in advance about what colour and type of clothing was allowed, no laces or metal on footwear, no belts, no makeup, no jewelry, and more. But my wedding ring wouldn’t budge; 26 years of marriage and a ‘certain’ degree of weight gain meant that it would not slide over my knuckle. I was sent to the washroom to try to remove it with soap. But no amount of tugging and twisting made a difference. For a moment it seemed that I might have to spend this prison visit in the van; thwarted by rigid security rules about wedding bands. But officials relented and did let me in.
Feature: Claudia Medina tells her own story
Amnesty members around the world are mobilizing to seek justice for Claudia Medina. Here she shares a personal account and urges us to join the effort to Stop Torture:
"My name is Claudia Medina.
Two years ago, in the middle of the night, marines entered my home in Veracruz, Mexico. They didn’t show me a court order, but blindfolded me and took me away.
For 36 long hours they kept me in solitary at a naval base. There, they tortured me physically, psychologically and sexually to make me confess to being a criminal. One of them even threatened to go and fetch my children and do the same to them.
Afterwards, they presented me to the media as a member of a criminal gang. They accused me of crimes based on what they said I did and what I allegedly confessed.
Two weeks later I was released on bail, but I am still charged with these offences. Although I complained about my illegal detention and torture to the judge and the federal prosecution service, they have still not done anything to investigate my case.
At first, I found it very hard to speak out publicly about what happened to me because I thought I was the only one.
But since then, I have met other people who had the same thing happen to them, and I realised that it is as if the authorities are suffering from some kind of disease. Marines, soldiers, federal and state police all behave in the same way.
It is not fair that other people should have to suffer the same as me. Nobody should be tortured. That is why I am asking you to support me in the struggle that I have decided to undertake. I want justice to be done - I want the people responsible to be brought to justice.
Please join this struggle."
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