Mexico: Stop Police Brutality, Arbitrary Arrests At Gay Bars

SUMMARY

Police raids at a cluster of gay bars in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes, Mexico resulted in 38 arrests during the first weekend of April. On April 13, gay activists Cesar Froilan Gonzalez and Ernesto Martinez were beaten by police officers during a raid at the bar El Morbo. According to the activists, Mayor Ricardo Magdaleno Martínez had claimed to be "ready to fight all faggots in Aguascalientes" and to "push gay bars out of town". On Monday, April 29, activists will meet with government and police authorities to discuss the situation.

ACTION

IGLHRC joins Comité Orgullo Lésbico Gay Bisexual Transgénero de Aguascalientes - a local LGBT organization- in requesting URGENT letters to the Aguascalientes Mayor, with copies to other local and state authorities. Please denounce the harassment against lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people in Aguascalientes and support the dialogue between the affected communities and the authorities.

Please write to:

Ingeniero Ricardo Magdaleno Martinez
Aguascalientes Mayor
Palacio Municipal, Planta Alta
CP 20000 - Aguascalientes, Ags.
Mexico
Phone: (52) 449 910 10 11
Email: agonzalez03@cd.ags.agas.gob.mx
Lic. Luis Fernando Jimenez Patino
Procurador de Proteccion Ciudadana del Estado de Aguascalientes
(Ombudsman Office)
Zaragoza 204, Zona Centro
CP 20000 - Aguascalientes, Ags.
Mexico
Fax: (52) 449 9152 380
Email: pdh204@ags1.telmex.net.mx
Lic. Roberto Macias Macias
Procuraduria de Justicia del Estado de Aguascalientes
(State Attorney Office)
Av. Heroe de Nacozani esq. Jose Refugio Velasco
Colonia San Luis
Aguascalientes, Ags.
Mexico
Phone: (52) 449 910 26 23/29/30/28
Email: rmaciasm@aguascalientes.gob.mx
Felipe Gonzalez
Gobernador del Estado de Aguascalientes
(Governor)
Palacio de Gobierno, Planta Alta
CP 20000 Aguascalientes, Ags
Mexico
Phone: (52) 449 910 20 15
Email: ofpartsgg@prodigy.net.mx

And please send a copy to:

Comité del Orgullo Lesbico Gay Bisexual Transgenero Ags
Tercera Privada de la Mora 118
CP 20000 Aguascalientes, Ags.
Mexico
Email: ernimtzvqz@hotmail.com

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Sir,

We write to you in deep concern about the reported harassment -including arbitrary arrests, physical and verbal abuse- of gay men, lesbians and transvestite by police officers in gay bars located in downtown Aguascalientes. On the first weekend of April, 38 individuals were arrested and beaten at police raids. Charges of prostitution made against them were never proven. And on April 13, at the gay bar El Morbo, activists Cesar Froilan Gonzalez and Ernesto Martinez were severely beaten -the latter almost strangled- by police officers, during another raid.

We are also alarmed by statements attributed to you which, if proven true, would show a willingness on your part to "fight all faggots" and "push all gay bars out" of Aguascalientes. We are also concerned about your reported intention to "arrest anyone with homosexual appearance" that could be found walking down Avenue Lopez Mateos.

The patrons' sexual orientation is not a valid criteria for authorities to determine which bars will be allowed to operate in the city and which will ones will not. The only criteria should be compliance with existing administrative regulations, aimed at protecting the safety of patrons. Harassing gay bars that comply with city regulations and threatening them with expulsion, constitutes discriminatory behavior, affecting the owners, patrons and employees of those business.

Being gay, lesbian, transvestite or bisexual is not a crime in itself. And being in or around a gay bar does not necessarily imply that one is engaging in sex work. People go there for fun, relaxation, meeting friends, having a drink, flirting, just as heterosexuals do in their own places for entertainment. Police officers have no power to arrest people based only on the assumption that they are engaging in sex work. Definite proof of the contravention is needed before the police can make an arrest.

Even in those cases where a contravention has occurred, police are bound by national and international legislation that forbids physical abuse against offenders. There is no justification whatsoever for beating unarmed individuals who are not resisting arrest.

Whatever their appearance, everybody who is a legal resident in Aguascalientes has the right to move freely about the streets. Having "a homosexual appearance" -besides being a very contentious and hard to establish criteria- is not a crime in Aguascalientes, or anywhere in the world. On the contrary, in your state, individuals are protected by Article 205b of the Penal Code against "violence, instigation to hate, exclusion, denial or restriction of services and work rights", on the basis of sexual orientation.

Besides violating that provision, the reported mistreatment of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people by the Aguascalientes police also goes against freedoms and warranties protected by the state and Federal Constitutions, as well as by international human rights instruments that Mexico has ratified, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Interamerican Human Rights Convention. As the highest authority in the city of Aguascalientes, it is your duty to investigate if such abuses have been committed, and if so, to punish those found responsible for them. Also, it is your duty to organize human rights training for police officers, including diversity issues, to qualify them better for the work society is paying them to do.

Aguascalientes has for some time been proud of its place among the three Mexican states that provide antidiscriminatory protections to gays, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We encourage you to keep moving along that path, opening yourself to dialogue with the representatives from the affected communities and looking together for a solution that guarantees the rights of all people in Aguascalientes.

Sincerely,

(your name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

On April 6-7, the city and state police in Aguascalientes, Ags., Mexico, raided the gay bars area and arrested 38 individuals. All of them were charged with "prostitution in public areas" which is a contravention under the city Bando de Policia y Buen Gobierno. According to Comité Orgullo Gay Lesbico Bisexual Transgenero Ags, -the local non-governmental organization reporting the incidents- gay men and transvestites were arrested upon leaving the bars, while waiting for taxis or buses in the street, and even forced to descend from taxis. All of them were beaten during the arrests. Police officers did not present any evidence against them.

Once arrested, these gay men and transvestites were taken to the nearest police station. According to Mexican regulations, a civilian officer called "Juez de barandilla" is person responsible for dealing with contraventions. Setting up a fine is the usual procedure in this cases, rather than arrest. There is a sliding scale taking into account employment status and salary perceived. Again according to Comité Orgullo, those arrested were verbally abused by the "juez" who claimed to be "up to his necks with too many faggots" ("hasta la madre de tanto joto") and announced his decision (shared by his colleagues) to not allow gays to meet anywhere in public, and to arrest them as many times as needed.

On Saturday, April 13, police raided the gay bar El Morbo. Comité Orgullo activists Cesar Froilan Velazquez and Ernesto Martinez were present. Activists claimed to have been beaten and insulted by police officers -the very ones who knew them very well due to their activities against police brutality. Mr. Martinez was almost strangled by a police officer. Lesbians and gay men at the bar were also shoved, pushed and beaten by officers. Finally, transvestites managed to push police officers out of the bar. Lead by commander Amaro, policemen stood outside and arrested everyone who left the bar. Later on, bar owners had to argue with commander Amaro, who pretended to close the bar because of the fight that had occurred there.

According to Comité Orgullo, Mayor Ricardo Magdaleno Martinez has said that he will not be scared by "20 or 40 people" (meaning, the activists) because he is "very ready to fight all faggots in Aguascalientes" (muy preparado para combatir a todos los maricones de Aguascalientes) and that he won't compromise in his intention to push all gay bars out of town. Activists also denounce Martinez for ordering the police to arrest "anyone with homosexual appearance" (toda persona con apariencia homosexual) that could be found walking along Lopez Mateos Avenue, in downtown.

For previous IGLHRC Action Alerts related to Aguascalientes, see "Local Official Calls for Barring LGBT People From Public Facilities," September 9, 2000, at: http://www.iglhrc.org/world/mex_centam_carib/Mexico2000Sept.html

IN THE LAW

Article 205b of the Aguascalientes Penal Code sets punishments of "six months to two years in prison, a fine of fifty to two hundred days and twenty five to one hundred days of community service to anyone who on the basis of age, gender, pregnancy, marital status, race, language, religion, ideology, sexual orientation, skin color, nationality, origin or social position, work or profession, economic status, physical character, disabilities or health status

  • provokes or incites hate and violence
  • in the exercise of his professional, trade or business activities refuses services to a person who is entitled to it
  • ostracizes or excludes a person or group with those actions causing material or emotional harm
  • denies or restricts work rights"

The Mexican Constitution protects the right to work (Article 5); freedom of movement (Article 11); right to liberty and security of person, including freedom from arbitrary arrest (Article 16); freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 22). Its Article 133 recognizes the prevalence of international instruments ratified by Mexico. The Aguascalientes Constitution guarantees all those rights protected by the Federal Constitution.

Right to liberty and security of person is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 3), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 9) and Interamerican Human Rights Convention (Article 7).

Right to be free from discrimination is protected by the UDHR (Article 1, 2 and 7), the ICCPR (Article 2 and 26), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 2) and IAHRC (Article 1 and 24)

Right to freedom of movement is protected by the UDHR (Article 13), ICCPR (Article 12) and IAHRC (Article 22)

Right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is protected by the UDHR (Article 5), ICCPR (Article 7) and IAHRC (Article 5)

Right to be free from arbitrary arrest is protected by the UDHR (Article 9), ICCPR (Article 9) and IAHRC (Article 7)

Right to freedom of expression is protected by the UDHR (Article 19), ICCPR (Article 19) and IAHRC (Article 13)

Right to rest and leisure is protected by the UDHR (Article 24)

Right to work is protected by the UDHR (Article 23) and the ICESC (Article 7).

###