- The National Human Rights Commission issues a recommendation on the case of three survivors of sexual torture represented by Center Prodh.
- The recommendation confirms a pattern of illegal detentions, concealment, and torture by members of the Mexican Navy.
Mexico City, February 21, 2019. Yesterday, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH, by its Spanish acronym) published its Recommendation 18VG/2019 addressed to the Mexican Navy (Semar, by its Spanish acronym) regarding the gross violations of the human rights of 15 victims committed when they were illegally arrested, arbitrarily detained, subject to excessive use of force, and tortured. The case involves three survivors of sexual torture supported by Center Prodh: Denis Blanco, Korina Utrera, and Wendy Hernández (“Charly”).
On August 27, 2011, the three victims were arbitrarily arrested in the state of Tabasco and were transferred to the facilities of the Semar in the state of Veracruz, where they were tortured and illegally detained for over 30 hours along with 11 more people. Later, they were charged with crimes they did not commit and were kept in prison until they were acquitted in 2016. In the acquittal judgment, a federal court considered the authorities’ version of events “a fabrication” and affirmed that the victims had undergone an unfair criminal procedure based on illicit evidence.
The recommendation of the CNDH reaffirmed that members of the Navy carried out illegal, unjustified arrests. By detaining the victims and committing acts of torture, they violated the rights to liberty, legal certainty, and personal integrity, as well as the rights to humane treatment and to a life free from violence, of Korina, Denis, Charly, and one more victim. The CNDH specified that the victims, as women, received a degrading and discriminatory treatment, which consisted of acts of sexual violence and stigmatization for their sexual orientation.
Denis, Korina, and Charly joined the campaign “Breaking the Silence,” an initiative of the women who survived and denounced sexual torture in the events of Atenco, in order to give visibility to the problem and show solidarity with the victims of this crime. We have recently published the report “Heads Held High,” which documents the cases of 29 survivors of sexual torture who are still imprisoned.
On February 12th, Denis Blanco testified before the Senate in the context of the consultations on the creation of the National Guard, which was approved today, and asked that the Mexican Armed Forces not be given more public security powers. “I ask you to be judicious. If you love your family, reflect on what you’re going to do, because, to be honest, it has not been good at all so far. My life is ruined. I’ve been in all kinds of therapy, but I can’t leave behind what they did to me.”
To Center Prodh and the survivors, the recommendation of the CNDH indicates very clearly the risks of maintaining the militarization of public safety with the National Guard, and it is a call to rethink a security model that has exacerbated the violations of the rights of the most vulnerable social groups.
It should be highlighted that, according to the CNDH, the facts that are the main subject of the recommendation are not isolated, but rather a pattern of human rights violations committed by members of the Navy in the state of Veracruz. This implies recognizing that the arrests took place in a different location from the one claimed by the Navy, as well as recognizing the degrading treatment, torture, and unnecessary delays in the presentation of the detainees before the competent authority. The CNDH recalled that, since 2011, it has issued 34 additional recommendations to the Semar arising from violations to liberty as well as to personal safety and integrity.
The CNDH announced that it will issue a complaint and an accusation, and recommended starting the proceedings necessary to elucidate the responsibility of government officials. The Commission indicated that the investigation must be exhaustive and impartial, and it must take into consideration the chain of command, “as a concatenation of events with the purpose of hiding the truth can be identified. Furthermore, the failure to investigate superiors results in a lost opportunity to prevent the repetition of this behavior.”
In this respect, the Attorney General’s Office opened investigation 391/UEIDAPLE/DT/M31/2014 in 2014 and later added investigation 1131/UEIDAPLE/DT/46/2015. To the present day, no one has been brought to justice, and the Semar has not given access to the naval base to carry out criminal proceedings. The CNDH is expected to reinforce the investigation, giving the new, independent Attorney General’s Office the opportunity to punish the perpetrators and, in this way, fight impunity in cases of torture.
Narce Santibañez Alejandre
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center
04455 8531 2218