Posted by DD partially republished from Las Vegas Sun, Amnesty International, and some material fromNew York Times
Wednesday, July 13, 2016 | 1:02 a.m.
|Marco Ugarte / AP In this June 30, 2016 photo, American craftsman Ronald James Wooden pauses during an interview in Mexico City. Originally from Iowa, he’s says police detained and beat him three years ago over a dispute with his neighbor.|
MEXICO CITY — Ronald James Wooden flexes the large blacksmith's hands with which he once forged everything from large chandeliers to intricate jewelry. He's says he is still regaining feeling in them three years after a four-hour beating with fists and rifle butts by municipal police in southern Mexico.
The officers tightened his handcuffs and then stood on them to inflict maximum damage to his hands, said Wooden, 46, who had set up a workshop in the hills outside the silver-mining city of Taxco along with his Mexican-born wife. Police detained him for allegedly disturbing the peace, but Wooden says the beating arose from a dispute with his neighbor, a former cop who claimed to belong to a local drug cartel.
"They beat me for close to four hours. Some would get tired and then others would come in. They were going to kill me and disappear me," said Wooden, who said he suffered nerve damage, broken ribs and injuries to his genitals.
He said what saved him was "divine intervention and the love that my family has for me." His wife, Carmen, waited outside the police station for hours until she was allowed to pay Wooden's 200-peso ($12 fine) and took him to a hospital after he was released.
Human rights groups say police torture remains all too common in Mexico, but Wooden's case from 2013 is unusual in two respects: He's an American citizen and he's won a court order for a criminal investigation into the beating.
A probe in 2014 by the governmental Human Rights Defense Commission in Guerrero state found that Taxco police illegally detained Wooden, contradicted themselves about how he sustained his injuries and essentially lied about their extent. It found that the American had been covered in bruises, scrapes and cuts.
The commission issued a directive that municipal authorities should punish those responsible and pay reparation.
After two years of no action, a federal judge on June 30 ordered Mexico's government to open a formal criminal investigation for torture and kidnapping in Wooden's case.
"This opens a new road, little explored and little used" to force authorities to investigate the thousands of torture complaints in Mexico, said Mario Santiago, a lawyer for the human rights group Idheas, which is representing Wooden. "We know there are hundreds or thousands of torture complaints all the time in the country. There is no investigation; these go unpunished."
Wooden, who had been living in Texas, was drawn to Taxco by its famed silver jewelry industry, which had been revived by American adventurer William Spratling in the 1930s. But in recent years, the colonial-era town south of Mexico City has been in the grip of drug cartels. In 2010, authorities discovered 55 rotting bodies that had been tossed into an abandoned mine shaft near Taxco.
Wooden said that as soon as he set up his shop, he began receiving threats from a neighbor who claimed to be a member of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang and demanded a 10,000-peso monthly protection payment.
When the neighbor got out a machete and threatened to send Wooden back to the United States in pieces, both men called the police, Wooden said. He said that when officers showed up, they went straight for Wooden, kicking and punching him to the ground. They arrested him for being drunk and disturbing the peace — allegations he denies.
Wooden is under no illusions about what could have happened to him: Taxco's police were so notorious that the federal government disarmed the whole force a year and a half after Wooden's arrest and handed policing over to federal officers.
The city's former police chief, Eruviel Salado Chavez, was arrested last month on charges of organized crime and kidnapping. He is accused of close ties with Guerreros Unidos, which is blamed for many of the 100 bodies found in mass graves around Taxco and the nearby city of Iguala. The federal government says 43 college students who disappeared in 2014 in Iguala were kidnapped by corrupt municipal police and turned over to Guerreros Unidos, which supposedly killed them.
"Part of what has protected me is that I'm a foreigner, and I have no fear," Wooden said. "What happened to me has happened to other people ... Whole families have disappeared in those situations."
He said that when he came to his senses in the jail cell after the beating, "I realized that there is dried blood on the floor, and it's not mine so much."
Mexico passed a law setting out punishment for police abuse in 1986 amid horror over the discovery of tortured bodies at an earthquake-damaged police headquarters. The law, on paper, was toughened in 1991, banning the use of testimony obtained under torture.
Still, scandals involving Mexican police, soldiers and marines keep mounting. And Wooden's case is an example of how hard it is to punish such abuses.
The artisan initially filed a criminal complaint after the beating. But he said he dropped the effort when a man at the magistrate's office pulled him aside, saying: "They're planning to disappear you from here if you continue to make noise and press charges.'"
Besides suffering physical damage, Wooden said some of his equipment was stolen. He and his wife left Taxco, fearing for their lives, and moved to other parts of Mexico. He said he's been unable to get new projects due to his injuries and a lack of money to buy materials.
Nobody has gone to jail for torturing Wooden. Two of the police officers got warnings and were required to take human rights classes, though Santiago said it's unclear if they did.
"There is no investigation, these go unpunished. What happened to him happened to a lot of people," said Santiago. "What we are looking for is structural changes, so these abuses don't continue to happen."
Torture of women by police and military
The following material is taken from a story from Amnesty International written by Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, @ErikaGuevaraR,
This report analyses the stories of 100 women who have reported torture and other forms of violence during arrest and interrogation by police and armed forces. Severe beatings; threats of rape against women and their families; near-asphyxiation, electric shocks to the genitals; groping of breasts and pinching of nipples; rape with objects, fingers, firearms and the penis – these are just some of the forms of violence inflicted on women, in many cases with the intention of getting them to “confess” to serious crimes.
Verónica Razo, a Mexican 37-year-old mother of three is terrified of sleeping. Every night, when she lies in her bed in a small cell in Morelo's’ federal prison, an hour outside the capital, Mexico City, her mind replays the scariest 24 hours of her life.
On 8 June 2011 federal police raped, suffocated and electrocuted her in a warehouse in Mexico City. She was tortured so badly that she almost died as a result. Police wanted her to say that she belonged to one of the brutal criminal gangs causing mayhem across the country.
She has been behind bars since then.
Verónica’s story should be an exception; a terrible aberration; the result of a few “bad apples” within Mexico´s security forces.
Tragically, it is not.
A groundbreaking report published by Amnesty International details the harrowing testimonies of 100 women who have been arrested by Mexico´s police or military, the majority during the current President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012.
Of these 100 women; 97 said they were physically abused, 72 said they had been sexually abused, and 33 said they had been raped. As happened to Veronica, many of them were tortured to force them to “confess” to being part of a drug cartel or kidnapping ring.
We visited the only federal prison for women in Mexico to conduct interviews for this report; and the appalling stories of abuse just kept coming.
A housewife who was kidnapped from the street as she was on her way to buy groceries by unknown men, later identified as members of the security forces; a mother arrested as she walked to pick up her children from school; and a young woman who witnessed her husband being tortured to death by police officers, are among the stories of terror documented by Amnesty International.
According to a recent investigation by Amnesty International, criminal complaints of torture at a federal level doubled between 2013 and 2014. Since 2014 the authorities have not been able to provide updated figures.
Yet impunity for human rights violations is almost absolute; despite thousands of complaints of torture and other ill-treatment filed each year, the perpetrators go unpunished.
Mexico´s Federal Attorney General could not point to even one charge laid against torturers in either 2014 or 2015. And when we asked how many soldiers had been suspended for sexual abuse or rape since 2010, the army could not name one.
Severe beatings; threats of rape against women and their families; asphyxiation; electric shocks to the genitals; groping of breasts and pinching of nipples; rape, including with objects, fingers and firearms – these are just some of the forms of violence meted out to women and documented by Amnesty International.
A number of the women we spoke to had been raped by individuals belonging to the Navy. Mexico´s marines participate in public security operations and are generally seen as an elite force. However our research found that arrests carried out by the Navy had the highest rates of rape. In 2011, it was marines who subjected Denise Blanco and Korina Utrera to a 30-hour ordeal involving rape and ritual humiliation as a punishment for being lesbians. The couple remain in prison on charges of organized crime and drug offences.
While this is discouraging, Amnesty International believes the situation can, and must, change. We also believe that the best way to stem the tide of abuse is to make sure there are consequences for those who perpetrate it.
Murdered Normalista's face not skinned but was tortured.
|Cesar Mondragon with wife and baby|
The following is from a story in New York Times about Julio César Mondragón, the classmate of the 43 missing college students who "disappeared" in 2014, whose body was found the day after the other students disappeared.
Though that is old news, some significant new develops have been disclosed that are worthy of reporting.
The media reported at the time that his face had been skinned while he was still alive which would have been torture.. The govt. said he was not skinned and that animals had torn the skin off after the body was dumped. If that were the case the government said there was no evidence of torture and his case was treated and classified as murder. That meant that the case was handled at the state and local level since murder is not a federal crime.
This week the National Human Rights Commission issued a report that said the face had in fact not been skinned, but a second autopsy showed that Mondragon suffered had suffered 64 fractures in 40 bones, mostly in his skull, face and spine, according to José Trinidad Larrieta, who has led the commission’s investigation in the case. He said that the young man died of brain injuries.
Mr. Larrieta called for federal prosecutors to investigate all suspects in the case for torture. torture is a federal charge, so the commission expressed confidence that federal prosecutors would take it up.
Twenty-eight people have been accused of murder in the Mondragón case, including the former mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca. Mr. Larrieta said he believed there were 11 individuals, of whom five are in custody, who were directly involved in Mr. Mondragón’s torture and death. One of them was an official with the local Civil Protection Agency.
Nearly two years later, no one has been tried.
Mr. Mondragón was one of six people killed in the city of Iguala when the police attacked students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, a teachers college in Ayotzinapa, on Sept. 26, 2014.
Mr. Mondragón had been aboard one of several buses the students commandeered that were later attacked by the police. He appeared at an impromptu news conference held by the students after the initial attack. He fled when the police opened fire.
Soldiers found his body on a dirt road the next day.
Only time will tell if the Federal Prosecutors will do any better job prosecuting a torture case than the state prosecutors have done in prosecuting a murder case.