Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture : Mexico. 05/02/1997.
A/52/44,paras.153-170. (Concluding Observations/Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CAT
COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE


CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture



H. Mexico



153. The Committee considered the third periodic report of Mexico (CAT/C/34/Add.2) at its 285th, 286th and 289th meetings, on 30 April and 2 May 1997 (CAT/C/SR.285, 286/Add.1 and 289), and formulated the following conclusions and recommendations.

1. Introduction

154. Mexico submitted the initial and periodic reports called for under article 19 of the Convention on time.

155. The Committee appreciates the timeliness with which the State party has fulfilled this obligation, thereby helping the Committee to carry out its functions under the Convention.

156. The third periodic report (CAT/C/34/Add.2), which was considered by the Committee at its eighteenth session, complies with the guidelines on the form and content of periodic reports which the Committee adopted in 1991.

157. Several months before the third periodic report was submitted, Mexico also submitted the supplement to the second periodic report which the Committee had requested during its consideration of that report in November 1992. However, the Committee did not consider the additional report, both because of the time of submission and because the information it contained was included in the most recent report.

2. Positive aspects

158. The Committee appreciates the State party's efforts to improve the legal status of torture victims and, in particular, the new legislative provisions on restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of human rights violations, promulgated in January 1994, and the granting of compulsory effect to the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, which require the authorities to compensate torture victims for the harm they have suffered.

159. The Committee recognizes the importance of projects and activities for human rights education and training, which focus on a wide range of public activities in which human rights violations may occur. The report shows that considerable efforts have been made to strengthen respect for human rights by public servants and society in general.

3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the
provisions of the Convention

160. The fragility of the culture of respect for guarantees of the rights of individuals and insufficient awareness on the part of the various authorities of the importance of punishing torture harshly and in accordance with the law, as recognized in the report with a frankness which the Committee appreciates, are subjective factors which probably make it more difficult fully to guarantee the fulfilment of the obligations imposed on the State party by the Convention.

161. The restriction on the powers of the National Human Rights Commission, whose recommendations the law specifically states to be "non-binding" and of a non-compulsory nature for the authorities or public services to which they are addressed, and the fact that the Commission is not empowered to institute legal proceedings in order to conduct investigations of the complaints it makes, are limitations which prevents it from fully serving the basic purpose of protecting and promoting human rights for which it was created. The Committee considers that broadening its mandate in the sense indicated would contribute to better compliance with the Convention by the State party.

4. Subjects of concern

162. The Committee has received abundant reliable information stating that, despite the legal and administrative measures the Government has taken to eradicate torture during the four-year period covered by the report, torture continues to be systematically practised in Mexico, particularly by the federal and local judicial police and, recently, by members of the armed forces on the pretext of combating subversives. The Committee notes with concern the wide gap between the extensive legal and administrative framework established in order to put an end to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and the actual situation as revealed in the information received.

163. In the Committee's opinion, the ineffectiveness of efforts to put an end to the practice of torture is the result, inter alia, of the continuing impunity of torturers and the fact that the authorities responsible for the administration of justice continue to admit confessions and statements made under torture as evidence during trials, despite legal provisions explicitly declaring them inadmissible.

164. Even the State party's report includes statistics which clearly demonstrate the impunity of torturers; by contrast with the large number of complaints of torture received by the National Human Rights Commission, which the report also mentions, only two convictions based on the Federal Act to Prevent and Punish Torture and five for homicide resulting from torture were handed down between June 1990 and May 1996.

165. In practice, the failure by the authority responsible for criminal investigation to investigate reports of torture promptly and impartially, as stipulated in articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, results in the denial of the right of victims to take legal action to claim compensation for the violation of their rights.

5. Recommendations

166. In order to discourage the practice of torture, the Committee considers it necessary to implement effective procedures for monitoring compliance with the duties and prohibitions of public officials and bodies responsible for the administration of justice and law enforcement, particularly the Office of the Attorney-General and its subsidiary departments and the judiciary, in order to ensure the full implementation of the many existing judicial remedies for the elimination of torture and the criminal and administrative punishment of the persons responsible.

167. The Committee also considers the following measures to be necessary:

(a) The public human rights commissions should be given the necessary jurisdiction to prosecute cases of serious human rights violations, including complaints of torture;

(b) Training and dissemination programmes intended particularly for law enforcement officials and health professionals should be strengthened and should include issues relating to the prohibition of torture;

(c) Procedures to inform detainees of their rights should be developed. Detainees should be immediately and directly informed of their rights by public officials at the time of arrest and those rights should be posted in all detention centres, prosecutors' offices and courthouses. This information should include a clear, simple statement of the provisions of the relevant legislation, particularly articles 16, 19 and 20 of the Constitution and the relevant provisions of the Federal Act to Prevent and Punish Torture.

168. The Committee recommends that the State party should consider making the declarations under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention.

169. The Committee hopes that written answers to the unanswered questions asked by its members during the consideration of the report will be provided as soon as possible.

170. The Committee suggests that the State party should include relevant information on the Federal District and the States in its next periodic report. In particular, the Committee would like to receive information on the following:

(a) Statistics on complaints of human rights violations in general and, in particular, complaints of torture brought before the public human rights commissions, and on the recommendations of those commissions on torture;

(b) Preliminary investigations of complaints of torture, cases where criminal action has been taken and trials which have resulted in final sentences, whether acquittals or convictions, and, in the latter case, the penalties imposed;

(c) Cases in which the administrative responsibility of public officials accused of torture has been established and the penalties imposed.

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Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
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