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“I have gathered us here today because it is necessary to publicly express our outrage at the tragic events that happened 14 months ago in Ajutchitlán del Progreso, and which have been publicized through a video circulating on social networks.”
-General Salvador Cienfuegos, Mexican Secretary of Defense, April 17, 2016.
For the first time in Mexico’s history, Salvador Cienfuegos, Secretary of National Defense, publicly apologized for an incident of torture that happened last year in the state of Guerrero. The apology comes after a video began circulating on social networks showing a police officer and two soldiers torturing a 21-year-old woman from Ajuchitlán. Cienfuegos maintains that this is an isolated case.
Recently, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to postpone his visit to the country until the Senate approved a law on the prevention, investigation, and punishment of crimes of torture. After the Rapporteur’s visit in 2015, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto rejected the expert’s report which stated that torture in Mexico is widespread and being conducted in an environment of impunity at every level of law enforcement.
The Mexican army has already been involved in other cases of torture, sexual violence against indigenous women, and extrajudicial killings. However in this case, a video recording of the incident has forced the Armed Forces to recognize the issue, a first step towards combating impunity.
Examples like this highlight the importance of video evidence in exposing human rights violations perpetrated by local, state and federal authorities, in this case, the Army. To support this, WITNESS has developed a series of resources to help activists, lawyers, and citizen witnesses increase the evidentiary value of videos and to help verify the authenticity of human rights footage circulating online.
The next step towards reducing impunity and state-sanctioned violence in Mexico is to recognize that this is not an isolated case, but that it’s one of many cases, indicating the widespread nature of the issue, as noted by the UN. For this reason, it is essential that organization, journalists, and communities remain attentive to the use of video to document and disseminate information about these serious human rights violations, in accordance with ethical guidelines.
- Video as Evidence Field Guide
- Basic Practices for Capturing, Storing, and Sharing Video Evidence
- Ethical Guidelines: Using Eyewitness Video in Human Rights Reporting and Advocacy
- Verifying Eyewitness Video
By Laura Salas, Translated by Jackie Zammuto