Press Release

Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty Conducted Visit to Mexico

October 15, 2015

   Contact info

IACHR Press and Communication Director
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
[email protected]

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - In his role as Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty and Rapporteur on Mexico, Commissioner James Cavallaro of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Mexico on September 22-24, 2015. The purpose of the visit was to monitor the human rights situation of people in custody in that country, as well as to carry out activities related to the mechanisms for friendly settlement and follow-up on petitions and cases.

The Rapporteur visited the following correctional facilities: the Centro Federal de Readaptación Social Número 1 "El Altiplano" ["Altiplano" Federal Center for Social Rehabilitation No. 1, or CEFERESO No. 1); the Centro Femenil de Readaptación Social Santa Martha [Santa Martha Women’s Center for Social Rehabilitation]; the Reclusorio Preventivo Varonil Oriente [Eastern Men’s Preventive Detention Center], and the Centro de Ejecución de Sanciones Penales Varonil Oriente [Eastern Men’s Center for Enforcement of Criminal Penalties].

During his visit to the Santa Martha Women’s Center for Social Rehabilitation, the Rapporteur observed deplorable conditions in the solitary confinement cells that are used, and in particular the prolonged period for which this type of punishment is applied. One of the inmates said she had been locked up for three months in punishment cells, a period of time also confirmed by the authorities. At the Eastern Men’s Preventive Detention Center, the Rapporteur verified that on the day of his visit the facility had a population of 12,883 inmates, while it has a capacity for 5,604.

According to information collected by the Office of the Rapporteur, federal prisons seem to be in better physical condition and are better controlled but also have an atmosphere of extreme repression. They are characterized by the use of prolonged isolation (up to 23 hours per day), restriction of communication among inmates, and serious difficulties in having contact with the outside world. Specifically, the Office of the Rapporteur received witness accounts concerning events that took place on September 19, 2015, when federal security forces reportedly entered CEFERESO No. 1 and violently removed inmates from their cells in order to take away their mini TVs and personal clocks. This situation, along with other sources of discontent related to detention conditions—such as prolonged confinement for 22 or 23 hours per day in 2-by-3-meter cells, with two or three individuals to a cell—reportedly led inmates to start a hunger strike that same day. The Commission observes with concern that civil society organizations have said there is a lack of information available on this matter.

The Inter-American Commission notes that there are common structural patterns at both federal and state prisons in Mexico; these include overcrowding, corruption, improper medical care, lack of privacy, lack of real opportunities for reintegration into society, mistreatment by prison staff responsible for the custody of inmates, and the inability of inmates to lodge complaints with an independent agency that meets recognized standards of independence and impartiality.

Moreover, the Commission observes that to a large extent there is an excessive use of pretrial detention and a failure to apply substitute measures. Specifically, in the visits the Office of the Rapporteur made to these correctional facilities, it received numerous testimonies from individuals whose cases had far exceeded the constitutional limit of two years for pretrial detention. The Office of the Rapporteur also observed that people being prosecuted are apparently sharing cells and common areas with those who have already been convicted.

The IACHR thanks the Mexican government for its collaboration in making this visit possible, and appreciates the authorities’ commitment to welcome this Rapporteurship so that it can continue its monitoring efforts. The Commission also appreciates the support of the Secretariats of Foreign Affairs and the Interior to be able to carry out the working meetings with positive results.

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. 116/15