- The United Nations Committee adopted the decision against torture for the arbitrary detention and acts of Torture against Mr. Ronald James Wooden, committed by municipal police officers of the municipality of Taxco, Guerrero, in 2013.
- The ruling determines that the facts constitute a violation of various articles of the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and urges full reparation for the damage and an impartial, exhaustive and effective investigation.
- The victim and his wife received death threats for denouncing the facts, his family and he abandoned their livelihood, they are displaced, and for torture, he is disabling to move his hands and continue working in his trade as a craftsman.
The U.N. Committee against Torture (CAT) condemned Mexico for the acts of torture committed by members of the Municipal Police of Taxco, Guerrero, against Mr. Ronald James Wooden in events that took place in April 2013.
After multiple complaints against the state and federal authorities, given the unjustified delay in investigating and punishing those responsible, IDHEAS Litigio Estratégico en Derechos Humanos A.C. on behalf of Mr. Wooden, filed communication 759/2016 to the international organization to denounce the human rights violations of which the American citizen was a victim. The communication denounced the threats after the facts and the forced displacement of which he and his family have been victims for demanding justice since 2013 when the municipal president was Omar Jalil Flores Majul, the governor of the state of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, and the president of the republic Enrique Peña Nieto.
The decision adopted by the Committee at its 71st session found that the facts constitute a violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – ratified by Mexico in 1986 – the beatings Wooden received during his detention and transfer, as well as the set of circumstances in which he was detained, are considered to constitute acts of torture.
The Mexican State was held responsible for failing to comply with its obligation to prevent torture by allowing him to be detained without a warrant; for failing to apply the Istanbul Protocol or any other manual following international standards on methods of prevention, identification, and documentation of torture; for failing to conduct a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation; and for failing to repair the damage or provide fair and adequate compensation.
In this regard, Mr. Ronald James Wooden considered: «My respects to these people from the U.N. who took the time to see and verify the truth. This decision is important because it gives credibility to us, who have been very much ridiculed by the Mexican authorities. Our fight, mainly, is for the artistic community of artisans in Taxco, from where we had to leave threatened since 2014. I also want to mention that we did not seek this struggle, we came to Mexico to work as artisans and live honestly, and we encountered torture and displacement. At this moment, what the Mexican State must do, now with the new mandate of President López Obrador, is to comply with the decision and work in favor of the victims».
For her part, his wife, Mrs. Carmen, who has been accompanying the victim throughout the process, said: «We want the authorities to do their job in favor of the victims. We want them to consider the U.N. ruling and comply with it, they must make the authorities respond, and they must document all these reactions that the authority has. And we want the NGO Idheas to continue, all the cases they have taken have been very successful, and the people we are very grateful to you.»
Regarding the decision, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, director of IDHEAS, stated: «This case reveals several aspects related to the practice of Torture in Mexico. First, the vulnerability of individuals in the context of conspiracy between state public officials and organized crime. Mr. James was the victim of a group of police officers who, obeying orders from illegal groups, acted against him, detained him arbitrarily and illegally, and after brutal torture, the ministerial authorities prevented him from filing a complaint, failed to perform medical tests. Both the Guerrero state prosecutor’s office and the attorney general’s office failed to investigate torture acts. In addition, the Committee notes that this case is framed in a context of impunity in the investigation of torture, which has been a widespread practice in Mexico not only since 2013 but currently«.
In addition, it reflects a regrettable attitude of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the agency in charge of defending the Mexican State in the United Nations bodies, since 2016 when the communication was presented, it denied the facts, questioned the victim herself, and requested the inadmissibility of the complaint. This dependency in a disconcerting way with its strategy internationally defended municipal police officers who tortured a U.S. citizen and caused him severe damages.»
The Committee urged Mexico to: «(a) initiate an impartial, exhaustive, effective and independent investigation into the facts of torture; (b) prosecute, try and punish with appropriate penalties the persons found responsible for the violations committed; (c) full grant reparation, including fair and adequate compensation to the perpetrator and his family, and as full rehabilitation as possible to the perpetrator; and (d) adopt the necessary measures to promote guarantees of non-repetition concerning the facts of the present complaint.» As well as to report, within ninety days from the date of transmission of the decision, on the measures it has taken to comply with it.»
It is essential to mention that since April 2013, and after reporting the facts, Mr. Wooden and his wife suffered threats and police harassment. For this reason, they had to leave their handicraft workshop in the municipality of Taxco. In addition, the injuries caused by the blows he received during the acts of torture caused him permanent damage and chronic pain that has made it impossible for him to fully exercise his profession as a craftsman. The municipal president of Taxco, Omar Jalil Flores Majul, in response to the recommendation for torture issued by the State Human Rights Commission of Guerrero, offered him the payment of 11,000 pesos in compensation as «fair» compensation.
This decision is the second individual complaint resolved by the U.N. Committee against Torture, recognizing the responsibility of the Mexican State for the crime of torture. IDHEAS urges federal and state authorities to ensure effective compliance with the decision and fulfill their obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in good faith.