Preventing torture in Mexico

Project description

Title: Preventing torture in Mexico
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office
Country: Mexico
Lead executing agency: Public prosecutors’ offices of the federal states of Oaxaca and Jalisco, as well as federal and provincial police forces 
Overall term: 2017 to 2019

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Context

In June 2017, new anti-torture legislation came into force in Mexico, marking a milestone in the development of rule of law in the country. It prohibits all use of torture. Evidence obtained under torture is no longer admissible, and torture itself a punishable offence for which the perpetrators and their superiors are liable under criminal law.

However, implementing the new legislation presents a challenge for the Mexican Government. According to United Nations (UN) reports, the use of torture is general practice in Mexico. Convictions are often based on confessions obtained under torture. The Mexican Ministry of the Interior has admitted to misconduct and torture. It has intimidated people and extorted confessions if, for example, they were suspected of having links to organised crime. Torture methods are also used in cases of everyday crime and to quash social protest. This often affects people from poor and marginalised sections of the population, as well as human rights defenders, journalists, social activists and, depending on the federal state, also the indigenous population and smallholder farmers.

Unlike its predecessor and the laws of the individual states, the new anti-torture legislation complies with the definition of torture set out in the UN Convention against Torture. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR), the Mexican Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) participated in drawing up the legislation.

Objective

Legal impunity is reduced, support has been provided to civil society, and the people’s confidence in the rule of law in Mexico is strengthened. Public prosecutors and police successfully apply the anti-torture legislation. International standards and proposals from civil society are taken into account.

 

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Approach

The project is contributing to the implementation of Mexico’s new anti-torture laws on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office (AA). It is active in three areas:

  • Training for the federal police and two regional police forces
  • Strengthening civil society
  • Creating special public prosecutor offices

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provides advice on international standards in the fields of criminal law, police and regulatory law and prevention and redress. Another priority is the provision of leadership, procedural and organisational advice in the respective public security institutions. At all times, the focus is on the successful communication and organisational implementation of the new legal framework. The project also aims to improve coordination among the government agencies, both vertically between the federal and national levels, and horizontally between participating institutions.

Results

Leaders of the respective regional and federal police forces, as well as employees of the Attorney General’s office, have been sensitised to the issue of torture prevention. The organisational advice provided to various departments of the public prosecutors’ offices in the states of Jalisco and Oaxaca is establishing the foundations for the formation of special public prosecutors’ offices. A dialogue has begun involving civil society and human rights organisations. Cooperation agreements have been signed with non-governmental organisations involved in torture prevention.