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Mexico vows to eradicate torture of detainees

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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Mexico vowed on Thursday to eradicate the torture of detainees which U.N. experts and activists said is systematically committed by security forces and investigators who go unpunished.

The U.N. Committee against Torture, composed of 10 independent experts, has begun a two-day review of Mexico’s record in complying with an international treaty banning the crime.

Activists said on Wednesday that Mexico’s security forces and prison authorities commit systematic torture and rape of detainees with “near-universal” impunity.

Asphyxiation and electric shocks are used, as well as sexual violence, 120 groups said in a joint statement.

Under the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, which came into office in January, the prosecutor’s office no longer reports to the executive, thus “guaranteeing independence” in criminal investigations, its delegation said.

“We still have a long road to make sure that torture and ill-treatment are eradicated once and for all,” Marta Delgado Peralta, under-secretary for multilateral issues and human rights in the foreign ministry, told the panel.

“Four months into its administration this government is aware of the challenges before it,” she said.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, on a visit to Mexico this month, said the deadly toll of its rampant gangland violence was reminiscent of the era in her native Chile when thousands died or disappeared during a military dictatorship.

A government survey carried out in 2016 in some 300 prisons, found that more than 75 percent of inmates suffered violence during their arrest, the activists’ groups said, identifying members of the army and navy as the worst offenders.

Panel members raised the allegations, including of deaths in custody and mistreatment of Central American migrants, with the government delegation which will reply on Friday.

“There is still a high level of torture and mistreatment by the state party (Mexico),” said panel member Diego Rodriguez-Pinzon. “There is also a climate of impunity.”

Panel chair Jens Modvig called for Mexico to establish an independent forensics institute instead of relying on doctors in the prosecutor’s office to document torture.

“We have a vicious circle that will maintain the problem of torture and evidence produced by using torture,” he said, noting that the legal system puts the burden of proof on the victim.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)

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