Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Mexico to the Inter-American Court

May 9, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.288, García Cruz and Sánchez Silvestre, Mexico.

The facts of this case refer to the illegal detention and torture of Juan Garcia Cruz and Santiago Sanchez Silvestre, as well as their subsequent convictions for three years and 40 years in prison, following two criminal trials where no due process was observed, in particular because of the use of confessions obtained under torture and the lack of investigation and the failure to punish the allegations of torture.

From the beginning of the investigation in June 1997, and during the proceedings against them, Juan Garcia Cruz and Santiago Sanchez Silvestre complained to the relevant judicial authorities that state agents had repeatedly tortured them during their interrogation in order to extract confessions of culpability for the events of which they were being accused. However, ministerial or judicial authorities failed to initiate an investigation based on the medical certificates and reports received. The State did not initiate a preliminary investigation regarding the alleged injuries until 2002. Such investigation ended because Juan Garcia Cruz and Santiago Silvestre Sanchez did not file a criminal complaint.

The victims were investigated and prosecuted in two criminal cases on the basis of their ministerial statements. The victims refuted those statements because the arrest was not made in the place indicated by the police officers who conducted it, and that they had been injured and tortured by the police officers. The judiciary considered these statements in the light of the victims’ alleged guilt and placed the burden of proof on Juan García Cruz and Santiago Sánchez Silvestre, contrary to the principle of presumption of innocence. Also, within the initial stages of these processes Juan García Cruz and Santiago Sánchez Silvestre were not properly assisted for by the public defender, resulting in violations of their right of defense.

The case was sent to the Inter-American Court on March 17, 2013, because the Commission deemed that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits of the case. In that report, the Inter-American Commission recommended the State of Mexico to conduct a thorough, impartial and effective investigation, expeditiously, in order to look into the violations of the personal integrity and personal liberty committed against García Cruz and Sánchez Silvestre; to adopt measures of a legislative, administrative and of any other nature, in order to adjust Mexican law and practices to Inter-American standards on the subject of torture; to adopt the necessary measures to review the validity of the criminal proceedings brought against García Cruz and Sánchez Silvestre, based on the rights that were violated against them, especially the probative value given to the confessions provided by the victims under the effects of torture; to fully redress García Cruz and Sánchez Silvestre including both the psychological and material aspects, for the violations of the human rights established herein; and to adopt measures to prevent the repetition of similar acts to those of the instant case.

After the case had been sent to the IA Court, the State of Mexico presented information on progress related to the recommendations issued by the IACHR in the Merits Report in this case. According to this information, on April 11, 2013, the judgment convicting the victims was revoked, and on April 18, 2013, the release of the victims and the elimination of their criminal records were ordered. These actions were the result of a judgment of amparo issued on March 25, 2013, which instructed the competent judicial authority to nullify the judgment against García Cruz and Sánchez Silvestre and to dictate another judment instead, considering their right to a proper defense, that the confession had been obtained through torture, and that the declarations of the agents of the State who had conducted the arrest are ineffective as testimonial evidence.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 33/13