UN Human Rights Committee recognizes violations of freedom of expression and other rights of Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee issued a decision recognizing the violation of different human rights of journalist Lydia Cacho by the Mexican State after her arbitrary detention in 2005.

The July 31 resolution is in response to a complaint that Cacho filed with the organization in October 2014 with representation from Article 19 Mexico. According to the Committee, the Mexican State violated some of the human rights established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights such as gender equality, prohibition of torture, personal freedom and security, freedom of expression, among others.

"Today is a day in which the world recognizes that the aggressions committed against journalist Lydia Cacho were true and that they require comprehensive reparation and effective justice," said Ana Ruelas, director of Article 19 Mexico at a press conference to announce the resolution. "The State has denied us so many truths by persecuting journalists.”

The Committee recognizes that the events against the journalist came about because of the publication of the book “Los demonios del Edén. El poder que protege a la pornografía infantil” (The demons of Eden. The power that protects child pornography) in March 2005. In the book, Cacho exposed a network of corruption and child exploitation allegedly involving public authorities and recognized businessmen in the country, such as José Kamel Nacif Borge.

In July 2005, Nacif filed a complaint against Cacho in the state of Puebla for defamation.

The journalist was detained in the state of Quintana Roo in December 2005 by a group of 10 men, including "five private agents of Nacif,” according to the events exposed by Cacho in her complaint to the UN.

As she reported, the journalist was transferred to the state of Puebla in an almost 20-hour trip in which she was the victim of psychological and physical torture, sexual touching and advances, death threats, and verbal and physical violence. According to her story, during the trip she was not allowed to eat or sleep, she was not given the medication for a diagnosed illness, she was only authorized to go to the bathroom once, and they pointed at her several times with a gun, among other things.

The journalist said that she was also the victim of sexual touching and physical and verbal violence at the headquarters of the Attorney General of Puebla. She was released after paying a bond of 70,000 Mexican pesos (about US $ 3,700).

A year after the detention and a lengthy trial in her defense, Cacho was acquitted of all charges. During that time it was reported that there were conversations between the Governor of Puebla and the businessman Nacif in which they agreed to Cacho’s detention, according to the complaint before the UN.

For these events, there is only one person who has been sentenced and a second person with an arrest warrant, but they are at large. The Committee called attention to the fact that the judicial process against these two people only continued after Cacho presented her appeal before the UN, that is, almost 12 years after the complaint was filed with Mexican courts. Regarding the other people denounced by Cacho in her country – meaning other executive and judicial authorities of Puebla and businessman Nacif – in 2008 the public prosecutor decided “not to prosecute,” according to the UN resolution.

That's why Cacho did not hesitate to seek justice in other bodies. It’s a fight that took almost 14 years.

"The reasons I continued are many, but the most important of all has nothing to do with heroism or with courage or with the desire to continue. It has a lot to do with the suffering of others, it has to do with the death of many of my colleagues who over the years have been disappearing for doing their job properly," Cacho said during the press conference .

"And it also has to do with that new generation of journalists that in all the presentations of my books or conferences that I go to ask me how they can be as brave as I am. And every time they ask me, I'm thinking, I'd like you not to have to ask that question and ask another one. I wish they were not afraid to do journalism."

The decisions of the resolution of the Committee "are much more than recommendations" because it is an "almost jurisdictional" body, explained Jan Jarab, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico, during the press conference.

To repair what happened, Mexico must conduct an impartial, prompt and thorough investigation into the crimes committed against Cacho. It must also prosecute, judge and punish the persons responsible for these crimes with appropriate penalties. The Committee also established compensation for the journalist, and for the country to take all necessary measures so that these events do not happen again.

The repeated demand to decriminalize defamation throughout the country is of particular importance for freedom of expression. At present, eight states in Mexico still have the crimes of defamation and calumnia, according to Leopoldo Maldonado, deputy director of Article 19 Mexico.

The resolution also indicates that even when these crimes against honor are committed, the detention is always a disproportionate measure. In the case of Cacho, it also established that there were interests beyond complying with the law. "The detention of the author was not a necessary or proportional measure, but rather a measure of a punitive nature and, consequently, arbitrary," says part of the resolution of the UN Committee.

This is a "historic" resolution because it is "the first decision of this important international human rights mechanism against Mexico," Jarab said at the press conference.

He added that it is important for Mexico to act because "it is an emblematic case, but also because the violations that occurred in the case of Lydia Cacho continue to be repeated, they continue to worry us 13 years later.”

The Mexican State has 180 days to inform the Committee about the measures it has taken to comply with this resolution.