Protestors at EU-Latin America Summit Allege Serious Abuses by Jalisco Police
July 15, 2004
The blatant and prolonged nature of the alleged police abuses strongly suggests that they were carried out with the approval of some level of command within the security forces.
José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division

The Mexican state of Jalisco should conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of arbitrary detention, inhumane treatment, and cases of torture against people detained after a May 28 protest march in Guadalajara, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Jalisco Governor Francisco Ramírez Acuña.

Human Rights Watch has received credible accounts from former detainees of police brutality, including physical abuse aimed at forcing false confessions to crimes they say they did not commit.

“The blatant and prolonged nature of the alleged police abuses strongly suggests that they were carried out with the approval of some level of command within the security forces,” said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division. “If Governor Ramírez Acuña is committed to law and order in his state, he should ensure that these alleged crimes are thoroughly investigated and those responsible are prosecuted.”

On Friday, May 28, thousands of people joined a protest march in Guadalajara to coincide with the final day of the EU-Latin America summit. During the course of the afternoon, a group of protestors separated from the march and clashed with riot police, allegedly throwing stones, bottles, and sticks at them. The police responded with teargas and began detaining protestors. Several hours after the march ended, police swept through the area around the protest, rounding up people as they sat in public parks, rode buses, walked down the street, and as they were being treated in the Red Cross clinic.

State officials informed the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission (Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos de Jalisco, or CEDHJ) that a total of 111 people were detained. Fifty-nine of them were released without charge over the next 24 hours. The rest were held through the weekend. Forty-nine of them now face criminal charges for alleged participation in the disturbances. Of this group, 19 reportedly remain in prison.

“We recognize that the state of Jalisco has a duty to prosecute anyone who broke the law during the May 28 disturbances,” the letter said. “Yet in carrying out their law enforcement duties, state police and other officials also have an obligation to respect the basic rights of detainees, as established in international human rights law and the Mexican constitution.”

Norberto Ulloa Martínez, a 26-year-old university student who participated in the march, told Human Rights Watch:

    On Sunday, I was taken alone to a room by four policemen. They punched and kicked me in the head, the back, the legs and knees, and threatened to kill me if I didn’t sign the confession they had written. One of them carried a pistol. He said, ‘If you don’t sign, I will kill you.’ I signed the declaration.

Karen Vásquez, a 20-year-old university student from Guadalajara, told Human Rights Watch that police subjected female detainees to sexual humiliation. “They sent us into the room in groups of two. We had to take off all of our clothes for inspections and then they made us do sit-ups while they watched.”

In written testimony submitted to Human Rights Watch, José Martí, a 20-year-old Guadalajara resident, reported being beaten repeatedly over two days:

    They beat us, with threats that in our declarations we had to say that we were guilty of the disturbances [and] that we had hit the police, and if we didn’t, they would not stop beating us.

Human Rights Watch urged Governor Ramírez Acuña to ensure that any police or state officials being prosecuted for these crimes are immediately suspended from service. The governor should also issue instructions to state security forces that abusive treatment and torture will not be tolerated under any circumstances, and that officers who engage in these practices will lose their jobs and face criminal prosecution.