Torture: Amnesty International says that the practice is more widespread than ever. It targets five regimes in its latest report

Rape seen as a police perk; MEXICO
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The Independent Online
Demetrio Hernandez, 34, a union activist, was bundled into a car in Mexico City by 10 armed men in civilian clothes on October 20, 1994. They turned out to be federal policemen, who accused him of being in an armed leftist group sympathetic to the Zapatista guerrillas in the state of Chiapas.

Hooded, he was driven to an unknown destination. After refusing to confess, he was stripped naked, hung from the ceiling by his thumbs and prodded with sharp objects. Then came electric shocks, administered to the toes, shins, knees, testicles, penis, navel, backs of the hands, the tongue, gums and teeth, the elbows, forehead, earlobes, nostrils and neck.

While his torturers threatened to kill his family, Mr Hernandez had a bag put over his head; it was removed when he could barely breathe. Next, water with powdered chilli was forced up his nostrils, after which his head was held down a lavatory bowl. Mr Hernandez, who told Amnesty of his ordeal, was freed six months later without charges; his torturers were never brought to justice.

Mexicans had no trouble believing the story and few were shocked in a nation where, as yesterday's report stated, "torture has reached epidemic proportions". The poor are the most common victims: Indians, peasants and particularly women. The rape of women, who are legally helpless, has long been seen as something of a perk for the country's generally uneducated policemen.

President Ernesto Zedillo has pledged to end torture but Amnesty's last report on Mexico, last year, said the problem had worsened during his term.

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