December 2, 2023

MEXICO CITY – Eric Razo Casales says he mastered patience during the countless hours he spent in a Mexican cell and subjected to multiple physical and psychological abuse.

After his arrest in 2011, he remained behind bars for 11 years in unofficial preventive detention – that is, without trial – accused of kidnapping and organized crime.

“Since I didn’t tell them anything, they beat me and started torturing me,” said Razo, who was released in the early hours of May 28. Telemundo, remembers his early days in custody. “They didn’t let me sleep for 26 hours.”

according to official documents Razo Casales was severely beaten and given electric shocks to his genitals and other parts of his body by a United Nations human rights task force, recently released by the Mexican government. Years later, he still has severe pain in his knees, is blind in one eye and can only hear in one ear.

Lawyers and human rights groups in Mexico and abroad are denouncing what they see as the widespread use of torture by law enforcement, noting that official figures do not come close to the actual number of cases.

The topic was focused on June 26, as the United Nations marked the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On that day in 1987, the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. It has since been ratified by 162 countries.

Many experts and victims agree that torture is a common practice in Mexico, despite the efforts of the current government and various judicial reforms that have been implemented in recent years.

Razo Casales’ sister, Veronica, was also arrested in 2011 and is still imprisoned. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Razo Casales siblings were arrested by officers of the Federal Police, a body that no longer exists, in Mexico City. According to official information, on the way to the police station, the agents stopped at an unknown place where they took off their clothes and beat Veronica Razo Casales. They allegedly tried to suffocate her, give her electric shocks, and sexually assault her.

Once at the police station, the siblings were locked in nearby cells so they could hear each other being tortured and threatened with death if they did not confess to their crimes.

“One of the most serious irregularities in this case is that we were able to make sure that the police and prosecutors, some of them tolerated and some committed acts of torture,” said attorney Jose Luis Espegel, deputy director of the Strategic Human Rights Litigation Unit. From the Federal Institute of Public Defense of Mexico. “It is hard, it is a fact that is still very painful for our country to know that agents of the law, or those responsible for complying with it, are committing crimes. That is, they capture people or hide them in order to torture them and provide evidence.”

Eric Razo Casales during an interview at the Federal Institute of Public Defense headquarters on June 14, 2022 in Mexico City. Albinson Linares / Notícias Telemundo

The story of the Razo brothers is an example of the little influence of the United Nations in the many countries that adhere to the Convention against Torture. In 2021, the siblings’ case was analyzed by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which determined that the detention was arbitrary and in violation of the rules of international law, and thus I ruled that they should both be released. However, months passed before Eric could get out of prison and Veronica’s release is still pending.

in that Report from last yearThe Federal Institute for Public Defense claims it has 7,779 cases of possible torture or ill-treatment. From September 2019 to May 2021, there were 2,271 complaints related to acts of torture and abuse.

In 2016, A survey was conducted By the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) out of more than 64,000 inmates, it was found that nearly 60% of prison inmates reported some form of physical violence upon arrest.

In August 2021, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a decree ordering the release of people who are elderly or who have been victims of torture in prolonged protective detention. However, Amnesty International’s report last year found that the decree did not include recommendations from civil society organizations and limited the possibilities of establishing torture.

Noticias Telemundo asked Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to track complaints of torture submitted in the past five years, which totaled 155. Activists and NGOs say the number is much higher.

“We do not see that torture has decreased, on the contrary, the cases are increasing. There is still the problem of lack of credibility in the institutions that send the message of impunity – which is why many cases are not even reported,” said Veronica Vásquez-Mata. Counsel for the Defense District of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH).

The Committee is an independent civilian organization that defends victims of human rights violations. According to its most recent data — collected from nearly half a dozen human rights commissions across several Mexican states — the number of complaints of “torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” from January 2006 to November 2021 was 27,486, a figure of Already on par with some of the bloodiest dictatorships On the continent, such as General Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

However, the number of cases of torture and abuse in Mexico is expected to be much higher, according to Various academic investigationsMore than 93% of crimes are not reported to the authorities, and of those crimes, nearly 95% are not punishable.

A 2015 report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that of the thousands of complaints of torture submitted since 1991, only 15 ended with convictions at the federal level.

‘I’ve never been threatened with death’

Maria Garcia says she loves to cook, connects with herself by the stove, savors the flavors, and breathes the aromas of food. “We must all learn to cook, at least for ourselves, because it is an act of unlimited love,” said Garcia, a teacher at a school in Cancun where she teaches gastronomy workshops for young people.

She said nothing of her willingness for what she witnessed on November 9, 2020, when feminist organizations and other groups mobilized to demand justice after the murder of Bianca Alejandrina, a 20-year-old girl known as Alexis.

Suddenly one of the officers hit me hard with a stick on my back, then put boots on my face; He told me to shut up. Then he picked me up, punched me hard in the eye, and dragged me to the back of the Municipal Palace. When I started screaming, he hit me in the ribs which knocked air out of me. It was all in the dark and that’s when he started touching me,” Garcia roared with fear in her voice.

Feminists demonstrate against the murder of Bianca Alejandrina, a 20-year-old girl known as Alexis on November 11, 2020 in Mexico City.
Feminists demonstrate against the murder of Bianca Alejandrina, a 20-year-old girl known as Alexis on November 11, 2020 in Mexico City. Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Garcia’s case is among several cases included in an Amnesty International report analyzing human rights violations committed during protests against gender violence that took place across Mexico in 2020.

“What lesson can state agents who commit torture get if nothing happens to them? Because no one is investigating – the government must realize that this is happening in order to design measures to eradicate the practice,” said Olivares Ferreto, Amnesty International. “.

Garcia said the assault “devastated her,” and she is still waiting for justice and answers. In her head, she could still hear the cop yelling, “Did you want a commotion? Well, you really deserved it, b—.”

“You don’t trust anyone anymore. I don’t trust any official, anyone. They all turned their backs on me,” she said.

‘Flawed trials’ and ‘fabrication of crimes’

Eric Razo Casales smiled when he recalled that he had to wait over a decade to eat roast chicken again, a craving he was unable to satisfy in prison.

“It seems ridiculous—I craved chicken. Eleven years of my life were taken away, which is why I think the Mexican state should repair the damage done to me.”

His legal team advises him on a possible lawsuit against the Mexican government, but his interest is focused on his sister’s release; He said he was counting the days. In dreams, he already hugged her and hopes to help her get back lost time. One of his aspirations is to study law to help people who have been unjustly imprisoned like him.

Seventy, 80% of the prison population is in the same situation … There are many flawed trials with the fabrication of crimes and the torture of imprisoned people. “There is a lot of injustice in Mexico’s prisons,” he said.

From prison, Veronica Razzo cries, remembering the day she learned of her brother’s release. She was so happy, but also deeply saddened to see that she was still in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.

“I hope that the Mexican state will do something really powerful and something real, not just for us. There are men in other prisons who have absolutely nothing to do with certain criminal cases — while the real criminals are out there because they have the money, if they have money,” she said from Morelos prison. They had to pay and bribe.

Razo Casales said they want justice to be served.

“We are doing everything we can to get her out of there,” he said.

An earlier version of this story was first published in Noticias Telemundo.

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