Old habits die hard for Mexico, says UN torture investigator

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Prisoners claimed pre-trial abuse, the UN expert said. Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi

A top UN human rights investigator has urged Mexico to take steps against "generalised" torture of criminal suspects after saying that abuse happens at a local, state and federal level.

Juan Mendez, who's a Special Rapporteur appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, told journalists that it was "very important" for Mexico to realise it has "a very serious problem" with torture.

The investigator shrugged off criticism from Mexico that he had not submitted more cases of alleged abuse before making his recommendations to the council, which is currently meeting in Geneva.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Following his address at the UN, special rapporteur Mendez repeated his findings of "generalised" torture by Mexican authorities and said he was aware of "hundreds of thousands" of complaints.

Mr Mendez said that "old habits die hard" for Mexican authorities which said he had only uncovered "14 or 15" alleged cases of torture.

"The fact that we were not able to give them hundreds of cases does in my mind mean that we cannot use the term generalised."

Young boys and girls were among victims of abuse at each level of state authority, the investigator said.

Noting that the Mexican authority had given him unfettered access to prisons around the country, Mr Mendez said that inmates told him the torture happened in the first 24 to 48 hours of detention – usually before suspects went before a judge.

The special rapporteur was also highly critical of Gambia which he said had reneged on free access to its maximum security prisons.

He also stood by his findings that Venezuelan authorities had used excessive force on protesters but said he was unable to make a more general comment on torture there until the authorities allowed him to visit.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'04"

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