R e f l e c t i o n s

THE MEXICAN ACADEMY OF HUMAN RIGHT

This Exhibition captures with words and images a unique collection in the world: 100 instruments designed for torturing and executing. In the introduction to the catalogue the origin and the purpose of the exhibition is explained in detail.

It is accompanied with a brillant and lucid explanation of the evolution of torture in Europe. I would like, in this introduction, to explain the reason for bringing it to Mexico, and the experiences that we have had in the first nine months after beginning.

The Mexican Academy of Human Rights was created in 1984 to protect and promote the human rights as a non-governmental and independent institution. It consists of 63 members that have distinguished themselves in the promotion of the many different aspects included in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. It has a Technical Office where it is developing several programmes. From its creation the Academy has put the emphasis on education as a mechanism for the creation of human rights. In these few years, thousands of mex-icans have been sensitized or accomodated in many short training courses or conferences that we have organized.

The themes treated are as diverse as the probing interests of society. From the start the Academy has promoted the rights of refugees, natives, homosexual people, the disabled, women and children, citizens and televiewers. Frequently we develop operations with official, international and non-governmental institutions and we feel that we are part of an active and vibrant movement for human rights which characterizes Mexico at the end of this century.

Included in this broad theme there is an aspect I would like to emphasize: when one person acquires a compromise with a human rights, one is acquiring a compromise with a human being's dignity, and there is nothing that attacks human dignity more than torture.

Unfortunately, in Mexico, as in Europe and other parts of the world, torture has been used. Previously, it was used in an ostentatious manner and was approved by the law, today it is practised discreetly and is illegal. Before as nowdays one of the important objetives of the human rights movement has been, is, and will always be the fight for the absolute, total and complete eradication of torture. On this point, there is not, and there must not be any concessions made.

In Mexico, we have moved forward but torture is still practised. In 1995, there were 300 designated non-governmental organizations for every State; there is a National Commission for this purpose, and federal and state laws have been approved.

In spite of this, there are still authorities that commit torture, and there are still organizations that refuse to legislate on torture. In 1995, the State of Puebla did not sanction against torture crimes and in Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, Tlaxcala y Yucatan, there were only preliminary laws about the matter.
Another serious problem is, indeed where there are applicable laws, the authorities refuse to condemn public services that commit acts of torture.

These obstacles show the necessity to continue efforts to combat the problem and in our experience the most direct way is forced is for decided citizens to reject it. It is for this reason that the cause of human rights bases its strategy on education, and on this logic that the motivation for this exhibition of torture instruments is founded.

It is thanks to installation in the Ancient Inquisition Palace (that has been made possible by the Faculty of Medicine of U.N.A.M.) that is has been visited by 900.000 people in one year, being the most ever visited exhibition in the Mexican history.

The benefits that the Academy has obtained, and will obtain through this activity are dedicated to many different cultural and educative activities aimed at promotion of human rights in Mexico.

In our determination to encourage the rejection of torture we are trying to make an even greater impact that it makes on the visitors viewing these pieces. Around the exhibition we have developed many activities. For example: guided visits, conferences and courses. Also narration, drawing and pho-tografy competitions, along with essay writing, theatre and video exhibitions, etc... After Mexico City, the collection is scheduled to visit Monterrey, Tijuana and Guadalajara, where we will apply this educative approach.

To say NO to torture and any kind of human rights violation is a form of individual liberation and it is one of the most effective mechanisms for building a more equal and democratic society. To aquire a conscience on torture and its effects it is necessary, sometimes, to see it face to face, and to observe the horror of torture that is brought to life through these inanimate objects.

February 1996
Sergio Aguayo Quezada
President of the Mexican Academy of Human Rights

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