Cases of torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects in Mexico are "systematic and widespread" and have "dramatically increased" during President Felipe Calderon's six-year war on organized crime, Amnesty International said in a report.
"Across Mexico, criminal suspects often face detention and trial on the basis of evidence obtained under torture and ill-treatment, while prosecutors and courts fail to question seriously information or evidence obtained in this manner," Rupert Knox, Mexico researcher at Amnesty International, was quoted as saying on the group's Web site.
Figures obtained from the National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, Mexico's equivalent of an ombud's office, show that in recent years reports of such abuses by police and security forces increased by more than 400 percent, from 392 cases in 2007 to 1,669 cases in 2011.
But, according to the executive director of AI Mexico, those figures do not reflect the true scale of the problem.
"Since the CNDH only intervenes when federal public officials are implicated or involved in abuses, we can conclude that these figures show only a small part of the reality," Alberto Herrera said in presenting the report in Mexico City.
He noted that abuses by state and municipal law enforcement are not included in the statistics even though the federal government acknowledges that around 90 percent of criminal offenses occur in the country's 32 state jurisdictions and in the Federal District (Mexico City).
Many cases also are not reported due to lack of trust in the justice system and fear of reprisals, Herrera said.
The increase in cases of torture and ill-treatment has occurred, according to the report "Known Abusers, But Victims Ignored," in a context of a massive police and military deployment to combat drug cartels and a "severe public security crisis."
According to AI, since Calderon took office in December 2006, "reports of torture and ill-treatment have risen alarmingly" amid a climate in which more than 55,000 people have been killed and at least 160,000 internally displaced due to cartel turf battles and security force operations.
Though acknowledging that Mexican authorities have taken some measures to reduce torture, the organization said "the limitations of the measures and their ineffective implementation raise questions about the political will at all levels of government to eradicate long-standing patterns of torture and impunity in the country."
The Mexican government issued a statement Friday saying that it has "taken note" of the report and that its content "will be duly analyzed by the relevant authorities."
It cited various steps taken during Calderon's administration to combat torture and ill-treatment of suspects, including "constitutional reforms to the criminal justice system," the introduction of protocols on the use of force and the "implementation of the Istanbul Protocol," a set of international guidelines for documenting cases of torture.
AI's report documented numerous instances of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of criminal suspects by military personnel and federal, state and local police.
It noted that "military personnel performing policing functions have held thousands of suspects in military barracks before presenting them to prosecutors. In this context, there have been numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment while in military custody."
The London-based rights group also said that "despite laws aimed at deterring and punishing torture, most cases are never fully investigated and those responsible almost never brought to justice and therefore victims have no chance of redress or compensation."
In the report, AI issued a series of recommendations aimed at stamping out the abuses.
It urged authorities to create an accurate nationwide database on reports of torture and ill-treatment, prosecutions and convictions, establish a special government unit to target and strengthen policy measures to combat torture and uphold legislation prohibiting the use of coerced confessions as evidence in judicial proceedings.
The rights group said it will submit the report to the U.N. Committee against Torture, which in November will "scrutinize Mexico's compliance with its obligations to end torture."
"Although it's impossible to know if the dramatic increase stems from an official instruction, it's clear that the official procedures and operating models in place lead to this reality," Herrera said.
The human rights organization also urged President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, who will succeed Calderon on Dec. 1, to develop and publicize his plan to reverse a situation in which torture is widespread and impunity is practically absolute. EFE