From 2001 until May 2015 the (Mexican) National Committee of Human Rights (CNDH) received 10,688 complaints of torture and other cruel treatments; on average twice each day. Since 2008 these cases started to increase and reached a critical point in 2011. Some of these cases, such as the one of Moisés Cordero, have been followed by Amnesty International Mexico and are known by the CNDH that until now has not declared anything in this regard. The former body guard would have been tortured within the premises of the Attorney’s General Officeof the City of Puebla with the aim to get him to confess his participation of a feminicide that he assures, he hasn’t committed.
Maria Juana still keeps the badly-cut piece of brown paper that once had been the wrapping of a cake. The hand writing on both sides has been downgraded in the time being: some letters written in black ink appear blurred. Nonetheless the message in capitals slightly shifted to the right remains legible. Neither the scarce use of punctuations, nor the poor orthography, perhaps the result of certain circumstances, interferes in its meaning:
“moises cordero I was physically and psychologically tortured in order to sign the statement I am incommunicadosince February 25. I was detained for possessing a weapon according to them and they tortured me on six ocasions so that I said what they wanted also they accused me of being responsible it is not true they confined me so that the scars of the punches would fade I didn’t do anything…”(sic).
A stretched arrowheadindicates that the writing continues on the back side of the brown paper: “…and never was I allowed to make a phone call I request to be allowed to use a lawyer and that someone of human rights comes over the torture was done with water electric shocks undressed tied up and hand-cuffed with the hands behind the back, punches with their fists asphyxia with a bag on the head they put cloths in my mouth and nose to suffocate me and I kew them all” (sic). A final point well blackened puts an end to the message.
Just like the cheat sheetthat is shared discreetly in times of school exams, Moisés Cordero handed over this piece of paper in the hand of his spouse. He was not looking for a good grade; help was urgent after the torment that he had been exposed to by the public servants.
Maria Juana already knew it. The writing only gave her the details. She found out moments before when Moisés who was held captive in a room of the Kyoto Hotel of the city of Puebla, refused the hug her and, she, uneasy, nervous, lifted his shirt. Only then she could confirm the canvas of violence that the body of his husband had become and that eroded the big hematoma that was at the height of the pit of the stomach.
The canvas extended over the back of the trunk of the man, with whom Maria Juana had conceived four children, all boys. Here instead the marks were different, as if the engraving technique had been another. They appeared to be pinches, like small burns, as if electric chocks had been applied on the back, tells the woman.
-What did they do you to?- she was asked, dismayed and with a low voice, with the sight focusing on each brush-stroke of that violence.
He did not answer. The agent of the Public Ministry that witnessed the encounter remained alert.
“They hit you, right?”, she insisted, waiting the aforementioned would confirmed the visual evidence.
“Yes”, Moisés managed to say, with a dim voice. Furthermore, though in a plain way, pointed out that torture is being carried out in the cellar of the premises of the Attorney’s General Office of Puebla obtained a confessionof guilt of a crime, he assures has not committed: the killing of a woman by the name of Karla.
The delivery of the brown paper ended with this subject. After came the warning: “Beware of the [agent of the] Public Ministry. She was present during the torture [sessions]”, said Moisés to his wife.
Torture, a prevailing practice
From 2001 to May 2015 the National Committee of Human Rights (CNDH) received 10,688 complaints of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, on average twice each day. This is stated in the Annual Report of Activities as well as in their National Alert System.
In that same period the autonomous entity issued in total 973 recommendations for several events involved with violation of human rights, of which 240 cases of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments are registered.
In December 2014 Juan E. Méndez, a special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatments of the United Nations (UN), said that the “torture is rampant in Mexico” and occurs specially starting from the detention until being put in front of justice, with the aim to punish and extract confessions and incriminatory information.
The statistics of the CNDH show a considerable increase of cases of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatments by 2008, a year in which the entity received 1,008 complaints on this issue in relation with the 399 cases it processed in 2007. The problem however sharpened in 2011, with 1,668 complaints, that represent the highest register.
During the administration of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa the total amount of complaints of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatments was of 7,055 cases, i.e. 466% more than the 1,514 cases reported during the government of Vicente Fox Quesada.
To this date the practices persist. In less than 2 years of the current administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, the CNDH has received more than 2,119 complaints in this regard, among them the case of Moisés Cordero. This case was presented previously on March 5 2014 before the Committee on Human Rights of the State of Puebla (File 2460/2014-C), an instance that according to Maria Juana Bautista, spouse of Moisés has shelved the case.
The woman comments that days after the visit of the Personnel of the State Commission to his husband, the person in charge of the case, José Luis Morales told her by phone ”that everything was all right and that there was nothing he could do”.
Despite that some cases of torture and cruel treatments are linked to the police and ministerial authorities-federal or local-, in the last 14 years the Army has ranked in the first position in this regard.
As can be verified in the annual activity reports of the CNDH, from 2001 to this date the Secretariat of National Defense (Ministry of Defense, SEDENA) has received a total amount of 103 indications in files related with complaints, followed by the Attorney’s General Office with 63 and the Federal Police Force with 20. Sedena also appears as the entity with the most of indications in this regard.
In its Activity Report 2014 the CNDH, led by Luis Raúl González, that concluded that Mexico is going through a “spiral of violence”. Among the serious violations to fundamental rights that, according to the CNDH stand out in this period are the arbitrary detentions, the enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions., which he remarks, “have hurt noticeably hurt the social tissue”.
The Protocol of Istanbul confirms the torture
In the afternoon of the 25th of February 2014, when Moisés Cordero was circulating in the Beltway of the capital city of Puebla, who was then working as a bodyguard and driver of the wife of Enrique Agüera Ibáñez, former rector of the Autonomous University of Puebla (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla ,BUAP), was intercepted by a squad of ministerial policemen.
The public servants forced him to stop the red Chevy he was driving, property of his boss, and by force they pushed him on board the Jeep Patriot van to furthermore transfer him to the premises of the General’s Attorney’s Office of Puebla, located between the Boulevard Héroes del 5 de Mayo and the 31st East Street. There in the cellar of the public building he would encounter six episodes of torture.
Moisés was carrying a .380 gun, the weapon he used in his duty as body guard. This situation would be the pretext for his detention. “Something is wrong with your arms license”, would have said the agents that deprived him of his freedom, regardless that he showed them his permit that authorized him to catty fire arms, as well as a document issued by the private security company Grupo Maya that certified that in that moment he was on duty for the former university rector.
Almost a year and a half have since gone by since that afternoon in Februay. Moisés remains confined in the cell no. 203 of the Social Reintegration Center of San Pedro Cholula, in process for feminicide, abortion and theft offenses. During his stay in this place, the Istanbul Protocol has been applied to him twice, a manual that contains the basic lines based on international standards of Human Rights to determine, based on the medical and psychological evaluations, of a person was victim of torture or mistreatment.
On the 29th of May 2014 Moisés Ramírez Briones, a medical expert and examiner certified by the Mexican Council of Legal and Forensic Medicine, concluded confronting between the medical exam performed and the Istanbul Protocol, that there is “evidence of torture”.
Despite of not finding any evidence of external visible injuries, such as an ecchymosis or abrasions- which is due to the time span since the detention and the moment of the medical examination performed: 93 days-, it dud detect chronic symptoms such as headache, lumbago and muscular pain, which according to the Istanbul Protocol are an indication of torture.
The medical expert in charge, as well as university professor at the Autonomous University of Puebla, had access to the results of the medical exams practiced on Moisés Cordero on the 1st of March 2014, when he was still being detained at the Kyoto Hotel. The aforementioned expert opinion which states three ecchymosis –one in the lumbar region and two on the back-, as well as one abrasion on the palm of his left hand, which allowed to confirm his diagnosis. This is due, as stated, to the fact that the injuries that were then detected have an “enormous similarity” with the chronic symptoms which were discovered on him.
In accordance to the medical expert, the evidence of torture comes down to the post-traumatic stress disorder that Moisés Cordero suffers, and that stems from his re-experimentation trauma (he often listens to the voices of the ministerial police that hit him) and the depression in which he finds himself (he feels sluggish, with a lack of interest for his life and even contemplated the possibility of suicide).
On the 24th of February 2015 the Istanbul Protocol was applied to Moisés Cordero for the second time. This time it was in charge of Maria del Carmen Castaneira, a criminal medical expert. The result was similar. The specialist determined that “the absence of physical signs do not exclude the possibility of him having suffered torture or mistreatment”. And according to the legal opinion issued eleven months after the detention of Moisés Cordero, in the time being “it is no longer feasible to find injuries or presence of pain”, not so the psychological consequences, which “are difficult to disappear”, she says.
According to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment- an instrument of Human Rights of the UN signed and ratified by Mexico- torture is understood as “any act by which a person is intentionally inflected pain and serious suffering, may it be physical or mental, with the objective of obtaining of the victim or any third party information or a confession, to punish her for an action undertaken, or by the suspicion or having committed one, or of intimidation and constraint to that person or anybody else, or for any reason based on any kind of discrimination, when those pains and sufferings are inflicted by public servants or any other public servants in the fulfillment of their duties, upon incitement of their part, or their endorsement or knowledge”.
Torture in Mexico, under impunity and without any register
In Mexico there is no national register which reflects the comprehensive cases of torture and Cruel Treatment committed. This was verified by Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the UN, during his working visit realized in Mexico between the 21st of April and the 2nd of May 2014.
The existing official statistics operates in the register of the CNDH, the State Commissions on Human Rights-26 of which received in the period of 2008-2013 a total amount of 2,323 complaints of torture and other treatments that derived in 392 recommendations according to Amnesty International Mexico-and the complaints counted that are presented before justice procurement instances, as Juan E. Méndez observers “many cases are not denounced for fear of retaliation or lack of trust, and there is a tendency to qualify acts of torture or mistreatment as minor offenses”.
From 2006 until 2014 the Mexican civil society has documented around 500 cases of torture and Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatments.
Amnesty International alludes in its report Out of Control. Torture and other Mistreatments in Mexico (Fuera de control. Tortura y otros malos tratos en México) 25 cases of torture: Claudia Medina; Alejandro Lugo; Jorge González; Wilbert Terán; Bárbara Italia Méndez and others; José Esqueda and Gustavo Fuentes; Inés Fernández and Valentina Rosendo; Ramón y María Guadalupe Durán and Javier Delgado; Ángel Colón; Israel Arzate; Adrián Vázquez; Luis Ángel Zazueta; Juan Gerardo Sánchez; Germán Heredia; 25 municpal policemen of Tijuana; Óscar Valle; Benjamín and Juan Pablo Ortiz; Luis Adrián, Jesús Iván and Juan Antonio Figueroa; Noé Fuentes, Rogelio Amaya, Ricardo Fernández and Gustavo and Víctor Manuel Martínez; Jethro Ramsés Sánchez; Miriam López; Ramiro and Rodrigo Ramírez, Ramiro López and Orlando Santaolaya; Cristel Piña; Gerardo Torres and others; and Jacinta Francisco, Alberta Alcántara and Teresa González.
Furthermore in upcoming dates the organization will release five more cases that they have been following, among them Moisés Cordero.
On the other hand the Group Against the Torture and Impunity (CCTI), represented by Raymundo Díaz Taboada, its state coordinator in Acapulco, refers that in 10 years of existence, they have followed 416 cases of torture and Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment. He details that in 282 cases the victims were woman.
In an interview to Contralinea, Perseo Quiroz Rendón, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, agrees that despite the official posture, that torture is a rampant. This is valid, as he explains “throughout the national territory”, i.e., there is not a single entity of the country exempted of it. Additionally, as there is no police, judicial or any other type of force, in charge of getting the laws to be abided, that has not been pointed out as responsible of this practice.
Regarding if within the Mexican context it is possible or not to define torture as a serious violation of Human Rights, the defender explains, that despite being listed among the offenses in the Statute of the International Criminal Court, to be considered a serious violation it must meet with two technical requirements: to be rampant and systematic.
In this sense, he specifies, “From Amnesty International we say that there is a widespread and tolerated practice by the Mexican State, but we do not have the necessary evidence to prove the rampant practice”.
As for Díaz Taboada as well, torture in Mexico is equally rampant, given the fact that “it is present all over the country”. It is also an endemic issue in the sense that it is utterly linked to the way public servants operate, not only being the executioner but also in some cases, also fall victims of torture with the aim to dehumanize them.
Torture, assures the state coordinator of the CCTI, complies also with the characteristic of being systemic, since for example, its preferred victims meet a certain profile, in which stands out –as also the Rapporteur of the UN pointed out- the condition of poverty or stemming from the marginal social sector; furthermore the way of proceeding in cases of torture seem to follow a specific pattern.
In Mexico torture is tolerated, allowed and fostered, and even beyond, is kept within impunity, asserts Díaz Taboada. His statements gains weight with the official data- as reveals in the Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, a document dated on the 29th of December 2014, according to which , only five judgements have been sentenced for torture between 2005 and 2013.
Also it can be seen that a minimal number of recommendations issued by the CNDH are related with complaints received of torture and mistreatment. For example, from the 8,746 complaints related with this issue between 2005 and 2013, the autonomous body only determined 223 cases.
On the 25th of February 2014, only minutes after his detention, Moisés Codero, former auxiliary policeman, entered the premises of the General’s Attorney’s Office of the State of Puebla due to an alleged problem with his fire arm permit, as he was told.
The worry of the 43 years old man was rising. Time was passing by and brought to an increasingly irregular outcome. It was not only an arbitrary detention, but rather the refusal to allow him to make a phone call; the handcuffs were put on both wrists.
The interrogation started the same day, in a small room, away from any outside noise. A man in a dark suite seated in front of a desk; two persons holding Moisés Cordero or either sides. In this context would come up the first hit against him: a punch directly into his stomach. After, confronted with his refusal to answer to a list of questions he could quite grasp, one more punch that would let him lying, looking to the ceiling still attached to the chair, on the ground floor of the cellar of the Attorney’s Office.
This would be only the beginning of his torture. The worst was still to come: the plastic bag, transparent and thick, that was put on his head to hinder him from breathing; the sensation of the lack of protection due to the subjugation to remain naked-a body at the expenses-; the episode in which he held on his back, his mouth and nose was covered with a cloth upon which they poured jets of water; the psychological terror that he suffered when being threatened of sexual abuse and retaliation to his family; the constant punches on the kidneys, the stomach, the thighs, the elbows; and to finish off, the extended sessions of electric discharges aimed at the kidneys and testicles.
According to the version of Moisés Cordero, the torture he endured lasted six sessions administered during several days and nights. His executioners: four policemen and a Commander by the name of Rafael.
As a result of the physical and psychological damage done, Moisés Cordero would have urinated blood on four occasions and signed a statement in which he accepts having taken part in the feminicide of Karla López Albert, a woman of 31 years and being pregnant, that by the start of February 2014, appeared dead on a public road of the Municipality of Tlahuac of Mexico City.
Maria Juana Bautista comments that until today she has not put forward any criminal complaint of the torture that his husband endured, as she was not aware that she actually could.
For the realization of this work an interview was solicited to Luis Raúl González Pérez, president of the CNDH, as well as to Roberto Campa Cifrián, Assistant Secretary of Human Rights of the Secretariat of the Interior. However until the closing of this edition no response has been received.
Flor Goche, @flor_contra
(Translated by: Axel Plasa)
Contralínea 443 / del 29 de Junio al 05 de Julio 2015