Provision of Torture Law Unlikely to Limit Mexico Police Abuses

INSIGHT CRIME — Mexico’s proposal to use GPS tracking to prevent torture by security officials is another example of unnecessarily elaborate fixes to simple but intractable problems.

The Mexican Senate approved a bill in late April aimed at reducing human rights violations, Excélsior and other outlets reported. The bill still requires approval by Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, where it is currently under consideration.

The so-called General Law for the Prevention, Investigation, and Punishment of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, and Degrading Treatment includes an intricate series of mechanisms aimed at addressing one of Mexico’s most enduring security challenges.

If it becomes law, arresting officers will be required to activate a GPS device the moment a subject is apprehended. The device would send real-time updates on the suspect’s location to a National Public Security System information center. All government officials involved in the chain of custody would be similarly monitored.

The bill also calls for the creation of a National Prevention Mechanism, which would be staffed by employees of the semi-autonomous National Commission of Human Rights. These monitors would be licensed to make surprise visits to any detention center or prison, including those under the military’s authority.

The proposed law is an attempt to address one of the most persistent problems foiling Mexico’s efforts to improve and modernize its security apparatus. It would increase penalties for government agents convicted of torture, and broaden the legal definition of torture.

Evidence of Mexican security agencies committing human rights abuses has filtered out with alarming frequency in recent years, undermining the government’s standing at home and abroad. In the sense that it tries to address a genuinely pressing problem, the spirit with which the bill was introduced is laudable.

But like so many other reform efforts, it is unclear if the proposed torture law will make any headway in creating more effective security agencies or improving the confidence of a wary and frustrated public.

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