MEXICO CITY – The torture of detainees in Mexico continues to be widespread and occurs between the time of arrest and when suspects appear before a judge, a United Nations official said Friday after a two-week probe of issue.
U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez said that signs of torture are found on people arrested by all levels of authority, from the military down to local and state police.
Mendez spoke in a press conference at the end of his visit to Mexico, where he met with officials, activists and victims of torture.
He said practices reported include beatings with fists, feet and sticks, asphyxiating with plastics bags and electric shock to the genitals.
"I wish I could say that torture is isolated in Mexico," said Mendez, who was invited by the Mexican government to do the study. "But I have an obligation to tell the government and society of Mexico that it's the kind of problem that needs to be corrected."
He will prepare a report with recommendations for the government that will eventually go to the U.N. Human Rights Council, where it will become public.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry said the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto has made it a priority to eradicate torture and is committed to completing the recommendations.
Mendez said "widespread" torture is defined by consistent evidence of abuse among detainees and something that is considered normal practice by arresting authorities. He said the torture regularly occurs in police vehicles or illegal hideouts away from police stations or jails.
He said the principal way to avoid it would be for Mexico to reform its justice system so that detainees get immediate access to a lawyer, something that currently doesn't happen.
Various national and international civil groups have criticized Mexico for years for use of torture by security forces as a tactic in extracting confessions, rather than conducting professional investigations to prosecute crimes. The criticism increased in the wake of former President Felipe Calderon's attack on organized crime that started in late 2006.
In 2011, for example, Human Rights Watch said in a report that it had found evidence of more than 170 cases of torture, 39 disappearances and 24 extrajudicial killings by security forces under Calderon's strategy.