Increases in beatings, threats, and sexual abuse against detainees
Javier Valdez / Ríodoce
Among the "techniques of torture" used by agents of the State Ministerial Police to force detainees to plead guilty are death threats, threats of raping close relatives, drowning, beating, stripping, and making the suspect feel as if he's about to be dropped from the top of a bridge.
Human rights advocates differ on whether or not torture is on the rise, but most agree that it is rising in high-profile cases which involve a notable member of the community. In particularly visible cases, the implications of torture often can become a greater scandal than the initial crime being investigated.
Data from the State Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) shows that 2008 was the year with the most cases of torture in Sinaloa, totaling 21 complaints, of which six recommendations were issued. In 2009, the figure dropped to 17 complaints with five recommendations. 2010 there were 14 registered complaints with one recommendation . In There were only 10 complaints in 2011 and one recommendation while there were 13 in 2012, with three recommendations.
In total, 75 complaints were filed by citizens against the different police organizations during the years of 2008 -2012. 16 recommendations were issued. So far in 2013, there has been one recommendation. It is concerning the case of Yesenia Armenta Graciano, charged with the murder of Alfredo Cuen Ojeda, the brother of the former president of the UAS and former mayor of Culiacan, Héctor Melesio Cuen, who is the current Sinaloense party leader (PAS), and 13 cases left in 2012, four were completed and nine are pending.
Juan Jose Estavillo Rios, president of the CEDH, said of 1,000 complaints last year, only three recommendations came out of the 13 in which it was considered that there were elements of torture.
"There isn't a high incidence, in contrast, it has been dropping. It is no longer a constant in the investigation process for the vast majority of crimes. Now it's only done in very significant, very private matters. Seriously, that's a fact. It is serious because in the lexicon of human rights violations these facts are significant, so much so that the United Nations Organization (UN) urged us to sign an international agreement known as the Istanbul Protocol," Rios said.
This protocol, he said, represents the unification the medical, psychological, legal criteria, and in the case of Mexico, only the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) can practice, as in the case of Yesenia Armenta.
In addition to the case of Cuen's widow, which led to a recommendation of February 25, the defense team of Juan Carlos Cristerna Fitch, who was arrested for the May 2012 murder of University Autonomous of Sinaloa professor, Perla Lizet Vega Medina, alleges that Fitch was tortured by ministerial agents twice, once as presumed guilty and the second time as apprehended
LINKS OF TERROR
"Why did you first declare yourself guilty?" The lawyer asked a young detainee.
'I could not stand anymore, licenciado."
The detainee continued: he was in the hands of agents of the state police in the town of Navolato. They were outside in an uninhabited area. Now, they warned, we will burn you. And they poured gasoline around him. He was blindfolded and he had several whacks on his abdomen and back. They set fire to the brush. He became hysterical, but did not recognize the crime against him.
The lawyer recalled that his client told him the climax: "officers talked among themselves about his not confessing. Then one of them ordered another one to bring up his child, she's was also going to be burned. The detainee asked what girl and he was told it was his daughter, who they was brought in the trunk, gagged and with her face covered."
"No. No, please. Tell me where to sign," was his response. And he began to cry..
That was about two years ago. And he still is in the Culiacán prison for the crime of murder
A boy had been arrested several times for theft. He had eight arrests in all. The final time, agents of the Elite Group discovered he had an outstanding warrant. He was taken to the area known as La Bajada del Rio in Navolato. They put him in an abandoned house, stripped him naked, and tied him to a bed, and put the buzzer on his genitals.
"He could not stand," recalled a family member. She continued, "yes and yes, he is a scoundral, he doesn't do anything at all, but for them do that to him, it is another matter. When they put the buzzer on his balls he told them it would better to kill him.
That happened in the first two months of last year. But people do not want to talk. They know that the police can return, and do it again because there is no punishment when they abuse, beat and torture,
A detainee in the city of Los Mochis, Township of Ahome , was charged with kidnapping. They beat him as much they pleased. Finally he was shown pictures of his wife and children. They recited details of his home life, and personal information. And then they announced: "Now we're going to rape your wife".
In other cases, the agents threaten to kill, kidnap, and burn detainees and their families. They placed them on the edge of any surface: a table, or a step. They tell them they are on top of a bridge or a building. They're going to push them off and it will look like an accident, unless they accept responsibility for the crimes alleged against them..
Other resources to illicit responses entail placing a bag over the head of a detainee depriving them of air, or putting a wet cloth on their face, pouring water as if trying to drown them.
For Leonel Aguirre Meza, president of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDDHS), it is no coincidence that all detainees in high-profile cases in which there is-a direct link to officials, from the governor to the attorney to the chief Police, obtain complaints, alleging they were subjected to torture.
"Not all investigators torture. But I can tell you that when this occurs there is complicity with the public prosecutor, with the defense counsel with and police chiefs. You will always find that confessions that are signed by the public defender, who incidentally never defend the accused, "he said.
Recently, he added, the ministerial have incurred prefabricatied guilty persons: they report that the persons they were looking for to fulfill a court appearances or presentations, after testifying before the prosecutor, left voluntarily without any problems, returned home, "but the truth is they are elsewhere being held incommunicado, in a safe houses, and they present them after they've been tortured and they confessed.
"So far this year, the city agency took at least six cases of torture against the security corporation and 12 last year, "and those are just the ones we know we received, and no one has thought about investigating them." said Leonel Aguirre Meza
"The torture comes from above, not from the police," affirms an investigating officer assigned to one of the special groups of the Ministerial Police.
He says that it is not as scandalous as before. Now they are careful with the hits. For him, the effectiveness, stems from the result of planting and harvesting psychological terror in detainees. It is the impact of them being naked, blindfolded and bound, and lying at the mercy of their captors.
He said that all the special groups hood their detainees.The method includes tying them up with brown tape, better known as "duct tape," and then comes the most effective resource: psychological torture that references family members and other threats.
They allow them to see a little, opening the hood or the blindfold partially to see the pictures: their children, their brothers and sisters or a wife. They tell them that they will kill their loved ones. They can drown them in water, but what is strongest is when they threaten to harm a wife, or a child. At the moment they cock the gun next to their ears, that is when they tremble. That is the fucking moment.
The agent acknowledged that Cuen Alfredo's widow, accused of his murder, was stripped naked, although he was not involved in this case. For human rights organizations, in accordance with criteria established internationally, just the fact of being stripped naked, even though there was no physical contact, sexual assault is implied. That's enough to qualify as torture.
"Also they call on the phone and they put someone on the other line to match the voice of the son or the daughter, or the wife. Obviously this is well prepared, previously knowing the ages, and other details, to make it look real. "
For him, from these methods the detainees immediately talk. But one of the most effective methods is to make them feel that they are on top of a bridge and they're going to be dropped off. "It will look like an accident, we always tell them. And that makes them talk right away."
TORTURE AND INNOCENCE
Rios Estavillo said that there are two thing to consider in the judicial process that follows the criminal judges, the participation of the Attorney General of the State, the defense of the accused, to determine whether or not they are innocent, and the other thing is whether or not torture was used.
He said the criminal judge handling the case of Yesenia Armenta has not considered the recommendation of torture turned in by CEDH to the PGJE, which they turned down. But if the Third District Court, asks for information on this recommendation, since apparently the defense is promoting an injunction.
"And that is our commission, an authority of whether or not there has been torture, and it's already been said yes, there was torture. It is the judge's decision to assess it for the process, but from my point of view, the constitutional reform of Article I, of the year 2011, requires it, " he said.
The amendment states that all authorities have an obligation to promote, respect, protect and fulfill human rights.
Regarding the response of the local Attorney, the ombudsman said that the role of the CEDH is trying to urge them to accept the recommendation in this case, but regardless of this, "if accepted, it doesn't affect whether the detainee is detained, or released from prison."
Rios Estavillo said that the authorities should not worry about their image to the public, but to worry about the people and their rights, and that's what we should all preserve, because victims and detainees have the same rights, and are in equal circumstances.
He regretted that the ministerial agents used the location and the presentation order issued by the Attorney General as warrant of apprehension which is a violation of human rights.
"Unfortunately this is how presentation orders have been used for some time now in Sinaloa, and that is not provided for by law," he said. He reported that the victim has until next March 27 to appear before the CNDH and complain against the response by the local attorney about the use of torture in the case against Yesenia Armenta.
He said if an authority does not accept a recommendation, and if this is not contested, the State Commission may refer the case to the State Congress to take the case, as stated in article 102, paragraph 6, of the federal Constitution.
2008 the year with more recommendations: 6
2008-2013 Total recommendations: 16
Total complaints 2008-2013: 75