Mexico's government hailed several legislative, constitutional and public policy reforms undertaken in recent years to prevent and punish the practice of torture.
Mexico this week presented a pair of reports to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, or CAT, which held sessions Wednesday and Thursday to evaluate the country's compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Mexico signed the treaty in 1986.
A Mexican delegation headed by the federal Attorney General's Office's deputy prosecutor for human rights, crime prevention and community services, Ruth Villanueva, traveled to Geneva to present the government's arguments.
Villanueva noted that Mexico "still faces significant challenges in the human rights sphere" but urged the CAT "to acknowledge that a true legal revolution is taking place in Mexico with the recent constitutional amendments on human rights and the writ of amparo."
The writ of amparo is a judicial mechanism in Mexico that dates back to the mid-19th century and is intended to ensure protection for individuals' constitutional rights.
An amendment published in Mexico's Official Gazette on June 6, 2011, broadened the scope of amparo proceedings to ensure protection for rights arising from both Mexican law and international treaties that Mexico has ratified.
It also states that the effects of amparo judgments are to be generally applied and not only benefit the party who obtained it.
Another amendment published on June 10, 2011, among other effects, gives human rights enshrined in international treaties to which Mexico is a signatory the same stature as rights enshrined in Mexico's 1917 constitution.
Villanueva also pointed to the overhaul of Mexico's criminal justice system in 2008 to create oral trials and place greater emphasis on the rights of the accused. It is to be fully implemented by 2016.
"This reform expedites the imparting of justice through oral trials and establishes a system in which the rights of victims and suspects are respected, entailing a strengthening of due process," she added.
Villanueva said the CAT should keep in mind that Mexico is facing a serious threat from organized crime that has led the country to "use the armed forces to collaborate in public safety duties" without violating the constitution.
She defended the controversial legal instrument known as the "arraigo," which human rights organizations have harshly criticized because it allows suspects to be held without formal charges for up to 40 days (and up to 80 days in the case of those suspected of participating in organized crime).
Villanueva said the "arraigo," introduced into the constitution in 2008, is an "exceptional measure" that seeks to prevent criminals from evading justice, noting that it can be appealed and guarantees suspects' right to communicate with their attorney.
Referring to the scant number of convictions for torture in Mexico, the prosecutor blamed "problems of judicial interpretation."
A total of 74 public servants have been prosecuted for incidents of torture between 2005 and 2012, but just six have been convicted.
Earlier this week, human rights groups submitted a report to the CAT in which they noted that torture cases have increased by 500 percent in the past six years as President Felipe Calderon's administration has battled drug traffickers.
Calderon will be succeeded on Dec. 1 by Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which will return to power after a 12-year hiatus.
Conflict among rival drug cartels and between the criminals and the security forces has claimed more than 60,000 lives in Mexico over the last six years.
The report, which was prepared by the 73 human rights groups that belong to Red TDT and other organizations, expresses "concern" about a "situation aggravated by lack of progress on public policy."
The report cites National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, figures showing a rise of more than 300 percent in torture complaint cases between 2007 and 2011, as well as cases documented by non-governmental organizations.
Amnesty International, for its part, said in a report last month that the Mexican government has "effectively turned a blind eye" to torture by police and military personnel in its fight against the drug cartels.
AI recommended legal reforms that ensure courts do not accept evidence obtained through torture, bar the military from carrying out police duties and outlaw the arraigo. EFE