For the first time, Mexican government makes public apology to journalist tortured 14 years ago

For the first time, a journalist who was arbitrarily detained and tortured at the end of 2005 after revealing an alleged corruption network at the governmental level received a public apology from the Mexican government for what happened.

Lydia Cacho (By Eneas De Troya, CC BY 2.0)

After 14 years of seeking justice, journalist Lydia Cacho received that apology from the government on Jan. 10 at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Interior (Segob) in Mexico City.

It is part of the measures adopted by the Mexican government following a decision in favor of Cacho issued at the end of July 2018 by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of the United Nations (UN).

During an act of public recognition of the human rights violations committed by the Mexican State, Olga Sánchez Cordero, the new head of Segob of the newly installed government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, offered public apologies to Cacho on behalf of the Mexican state.

Alejandro Encinas, deputy secretary of human rights, population and migration, read the apology, according to Pie de Página.

“I offer an apology for the arbitrary detention to which she was submitted by various authorities of the Mexican State, derived from the accusation of the crimes of defamation and calumnia, by the authority. For the use of torture as an instrument of investigation, intimidation and punishment that she was victim of, carried out by various agents.”

Cacho accepted the apology and demanded that the government fulfill its obligations to all the victims, "absolutely everyone, to whom she represents today and to whom she will continue to give voice."

With reference to the number of journalists murdered in Mexico in 2018, the head of Segob emphasized that "this act represents the beginning of a State policy committed to whoever is dedicated to informing." "This is an appropriate time to reflect on the value that freedom of expression represents for our democracy and for [this government’s] fourth transformation. Censorship must never have a place in this Secretariat of the Interior again," she added.

Moments before the representative of the government spoke, Cacho mentioned how hard it has been during these 14 years to keep up hope facing the highest leaders of the different governments.

The journalist also referred to the status quo of the country's governments that in the last decade has caused the strengthening of criminal impunity for violence against girls, boys, women in particular, and against society in general.

"This government has the responsibility of using the next six years to create a true rule of law. That will only be possible if its leaders, in each area of the State, assume that they must admit the truth and not create alternative and complacent truths," Cacho said.

In her 2005 book, "Demons of Eden: the power that protects child pornography," the journalist revealed a network of child pornography in which officials from the highest spheres of political and economic power were allegedly involved. A businessman then filed a complaint against the journalist for defamation (she was later acquitted of the charges). In December 2005, Cacho was detained by a group of police and private agents of the businessman, according to a UN document based on her statements that was read during the apology. During that period, she said she was subjected to psychological and physical torture, sexual touching and advances, death threats and verbal and physical violence.

Over the years, Cacho also went to national and international bodies to seek justice.

On July 31, 2018, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN), issued a resolution regarding Cacho’s case.

In the document, the organization held the Mexican State responsible for the first time for violating human rights outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as gender equality, prohibition of torture, freedom and personal security, freedom of expression, among others.

One of the main measures that the Committee demanded from the Mexican government in the July 2018 ruling is that an impartial, prompt, and exhaustive investigation be carried out concerning the events denounced by Cacho.

The Committee granted the Mexican government 180 days to inform it of the measures it adopted to implement the measures outlined in the resolution.

During the Jan. 10 apology, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations Office in Mexico, Jesús Peña, stressed that it must be remembered that the violations toward Cacho date back to 2005, which represents "the reality of an unsafe environment for those who exercise the right to defend human rights and freedom of expression."

It is a moment of great importance for the Government of Mexico, Peña explained, that the country complies with its international obligations and in the matter of human rights. "After the accusations that Cacho lodged before diverse bodies starting in 2006, she never obtained an answer from the authorities in a reasonable term. Cacho had to turn to the Committee," he said.

"Freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are fundamental for every society and constitute the cornerstone of all free and democratic societies," he added.

Cacho thanked the entire Article 19 team for the support it provided for her legal defense, without which, she said, she would remain in prison, silenced or dead, like some of the journalist friends she has lost.

Through a video posted on the organization's website, Leopoldo Maldonado of Article 19 Mexico congratulated Cacho and explained that this act should mark the path to other important and pending acts to repair damage to Cacho.

He stressed that there are other pending issues such as fighting impunity in the case, the identification, prosecution and punishment of all those responsible, material and intellectual. In addition, there is the adoption by the State of measures so that this does not happen again, neither against Lydia, nor against any human rights defender or journalist in the exercise of their work, stressed Maldonado.

"It is very important that the Mexican State understands that this act is not a final point, but is a starting point towards a new relationship between the State and these population groups that are under siege," he said.