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The Government of Veracruz ignored UN requests to investigate Arturo Bermúdez for disappearances in Tierra Blanca

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The UN Committee against Torture asked the government of Veracruz, in November 2017, to investigate the chain of command of the Secretary of Public Security and various prosecutors who continue to work, for their participation in the forced disappearance of the five young people from Playa Vicente ; the request was ignored

XALAPA, VERACRUZ. – In November 2017, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances made an urgent call to the Mexican State to investigate the then Secretary of Public Security, Arturo Bermúdez, for his alleged participation in crimes against humanity. The Committee had launched, since March 2016, urgent actions for the disappearance of five young people in Tierra Blanca, in the south of the State.

The 2017 letter was signed by Ibrahim Salama, head of the Human Rights Treaty branch. The reason for the letter: the disappearances of five young people from Playa Vicente – which occurred on January 11, 2016 – at the hands of state police, who allegedly handed them over to members of the Jalisco Cartel to torture and murder them.

The document of which E-Consulta Veracruz has a copy was sent to the Veracruz authorities, during the government of PAN member Miguel Ángel Yunes. The request was clear: investigate the chain of command of the Secretary of Public Security (which served in the Javier Duarte period) and some prosecutors who are still working to date.

However, the request was dismissed. Arturo Bermúdez was arrested on February 3, 2017 for the crime of illicit enrichment. A year later, on February 8, 2018 (in electoral campaigns), he and two other SSP commanders were charged before a judge for allegedly commanding a group of special police forces that used the El Lencero Academy to torture and kill. However, in less than a year, a judge allowed him to face the trial on freedom, after paying a bail of one million pesos.In 2017, the collaboration of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances was not mandatory. However, that changed on June 16 after a historic ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCNJ) which urged the Mexican authorities to attend to the urgent actions of this international organization.

Due to the forced disappearances of José Benítez de la O, Mario Arturo Orozco Sánchez, Bernardo Benítez Arroniz, José Alfredo González Díaz and Susana Tapia (16 years old), the UN issued urgent actions No.288-292/2016. Among those that stand out: Search for missing persons and investigation of their disappearance; Investigation of possible responsibilities for action or omission of authorities and protection measures for the relatives of the disappeared.

1.- Do not stop the search for three young people

According to ministerial investigations, the last whereabouts of the five young people from Playa Vicente was a torture camp called “El Limón” allegedly used by elements of the CJNG that was guarded and operated by Veracruz police officers.

In that place, erected in the municipality of Tlalixcoyan, the deaths of Bernardo Benítez and José Alfredo González were confirmed by the discovery of a tibia fragment from the former, and a bloodstain on a trunk from the latter. However, for the UN, this did not completely clarify the whereabouts of the other three young people, so it asked that the investigations be exhausted.

The public ministry of the federation initially dismissed the investigation against 21 detainees -among them eight policemen- for the crime of organized crime.

The document points out: “The Public Ministry of the federation adopted said decision (to dismiss the investigation) without taking into account the almost eight thousand bone fragments, clamps, hoses, diesel drums, cargo vehicles and other implements typical of the theft of hydrocarbons; two vehicles stolen and remarked in their vehicle identification number”. All of this, found in El limón.

2.- Bermúdez and subordinates should be investigated

In a central part of the letter, the UN committee questioned why the government of Javier Duarte did not investigate the chain of command of the Ministry of Public Security, including the then secretary Arturo Bermúdez, Nabor Nava Holguín, then undersecretary of operations, José Alfonso Díaz Pineda, director of operations, and Andrés Tenorio Quezada, regional deputy director of the downtown area.

The organization asked why all these police commanders were called to testify, however, only as witnesses and not as probable perpetrators, despite the fact that they were direct bosses of the eight arrested police officers, including the main person involved: Marcos Conde , regional delegate of Tierra Blanca.

“There was no reference (in the investigation) to the hierarchical level that related them to each of the detained police officers, preventing a real investigation of the chain of command,” the letter reads.

In addition, they pointed out why Bermúdez Zurita was not charged in the Tierra Blanca case, even though by November 2017 he was already in prison for the crime of illicit enrichment. Duarte’s former secretary ended up being acquitted of these accusations and today he is free.

3.- Investigate omissions of the prosecutor, currently in force with Cuitláhuac

The Committee also promptly requested an investigation of a criminal or administrative nature from the agents of the public prosecutor’s office of Tierra Blanca. The foregoing, considering that “they did not adequately fulfill their duties and gave negligent treatment (to the victims). Said difficulties were denounced by the relatives of the five young people of. However, no action has been taken in this regard.”

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