Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, A.C.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
24 September 2014
Press Release No.26
Torture of Indigenous Tzeltal Adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle
The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) has documented acts of torture and cruel, inhuman and/or degrading treatment committed by members of the Chilón Municipal Police against the Tzeltal indigenous Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Roberto Gómez Hernández and Mario Aguilar Silvano (hereinafter Juan Antonio, Roberto and Mario), adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. The events occurred on 16 September, 2014, in the county seat of Chilón, Chiapas, Mexico.
According to information in the possession of Frayba, on September 16, at approximately 04.00 hrs, while they were heading home, Juan Antonio, Roberto and Mario were arrested by a group of approximately 40 municipal police from Chilón.
From that moment they were beaten with fists and kicked, had gas sprayed in their eyes, were handcuffed and each was put into a truck belonging to the Chilón municipal police; already subdued, and face downwards they trod on their backs and hands to immobilize them. At the headquarters of the Municipal Police the beatings and spraying of gas in their eyes continued, while interrogating them on the carrying of two firearms and injuries to a municipal policeman. The three Tzeltal indigenous indicated that they knew nothing about the acts the police were questioning them about.
On 17 September, now in the Prosecutor’s Office of the Public Ministry in Ocosingo, Chiapas, they were again beaten in the presence of Rodolfo Manuel Gomez Gutierrez, officer of the Public Ministry. According to documentation they tried to asphyxiate Mario with a plastic bag and beat him on the head with the palm of the hand insisting that he confess with regard to the firearm and that he incriminate himself for having shot and injured a policeman. Meanwhile Roberto was pressured psychologically to accuse the two compañeros, with the argument that they had incriminated him.
The three indigenous were forced to put their fingerprint on the ministerial statement, which was not read to them. It is important to state that none of the three can read or write, and in addition their native language is Tzeltal. There is information that the detainees did not have a translator, nor a lawyer they trust to assist them during their ministerial statement. They were committed on 18 September to appear before Judge Omar Heredia Reyes for the crime of aggravated assault.
On giving their initial statement before Judge Omar Heredia, it was achieved that he would give judicial testimony as to their injuries, asking the prosecutor from the Public Ministry to initiate appropriate investigations in to probable acts of torture, sustaining them in the State Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Torture. Given what has just been told, Frayba is concerned about the performance of the Municipal Police of Chilón and the Public Ministry of Ocosingo, for the use of torture as a method of police investigation.
We request the Attorney General of the state of Chiapas conduct the appropriate investigations against the municipal police of Chilón and the Prosecutor of the Public Ministry, Rodolfo Manuel Gómez Gutiérrez, for the crime of torture as it is defined in the Criminal Code the state of Chiapas, and the other crimes that result.
Also, the judge hearing the case of Juan Antonio, Roberto and Mario must put aside the legal evidence obtained under torture.
Background: During the celebrations of the Mexican independence festival, on the morning of 16 September, in the county seat of the municipality of Chilón, several gun shots were heard when a member of the Chilón municipal police was injured. Juan Antonio, Robert and Mario attended these celebrations and were walking home when they were stopped and accused of shooting the injured policeman.