The Demystification of the Istanbul Protocol in Mexico


As part of Fair Trials’ project “Ending Torture Evidence in Mexico,” we held several meetings and workshops in different parts of the country between 2019 and 2020, to discuss the main needs and challenges faced by Mexican defence lawyers. One key takeaway from our discussions was the improper use and implementation of the Istanbul Protocol by all levels of justice operators in Mexico.

Even though the Istanbul Protocol serves as an authoritative guideline for the investigation and documentation of torture, it is not, under any circumstances, a compulsory requirement to accredit claims of torture. Nonetheless, Mexican judges and other justice operators sustain a false belief of compulsory applicability, even in cases where the victim is unwilling to undergo a medical examination.

We heard of several cases in which the decision-making in a case of torture, was fundamentally dependant on the application of the Istanbul Protocol. In such instances, the latter poses significant problems including, the revictimization of the victim, and the replacement of a wholesome investigation with the mere application of the Protocol as the only method to prove torture. The current practice threatens to transform the Protocol in Mexico into an instrument to aid impunity, and in many cases, to criminalize victims instead of protecting them.

Between September 2019 and January 2020, we held several training events with a focus on the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol. Veronica Hinestroza and Rafael Barreto Souza, facilitated the different discussions and workshops on the role of the Istanbul Protocol in the exclusion of torture evidence in Mexico.

As a result of these meetings and trainings, Fair Trials and IJPP produced a toolkit to serve as a practical guide and reference instrument for defence lawyers and other legal professionals, when working to document torture and other inhumane treatments using the Istanbul Protocol.