Report uncovers black sites, caged children with disabilities in Mexico City

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child wrapped in bandages tied into a metal structure, head bowed

Widespread Abuse Found in Mexico City Institutions. Photo from “No Justice” by Disability Rights International

Disability Rights International released an extensive report [PDF] July 22, documenting a range of abuses of children and adults with disabilities in government-run facilities across Mexico City.

In one harrowing example, featured in a video from ABC News, children are isolated in rooms lined with cages and cribs. As detailed in the report, many of these children have been confined there for years, as evident by extensive atrophy in their arms and legs and failing body organs.

DRI only became aware of this particular location after obtaining access to a confidential “blacklist,” dated November 2013, which lists 25 facilities known by Mexico City officials to be abusive, but otherwise kept open outside of the public eye.

“Mexico City authorities knowingly let perpetrators subject children and adults with disabilities to atrocious, life-threatening abuses,” DRI Executive Director Eric Rosenthal said in a news release. “Without any safe, community supports available in Mexico City, however, survivors of abuse will remain in segregation in other institutions. There will be no justice in Mexico without significant reform.”

In light of the revelations, a Mexico City official announced July 30 the first of many reform called for in the report.

“Effective immediately Mexico City will ban the use of restraints and cages,” Jose Ramon Amieva, secretary of the City’s Ministry for Social Development, told ABC News.

As part of the investigation, DRI investigators looked into 22 facilities in Mexico City, including five of the sites on the blacklist.

At eight of the facilities, they found evidence of prolonged use of restraints, including examples of children “tied from head to toe, looking ‘mummified’ and unable to move.”

DRI investigators found evidence of people being overmedicated at 10 of the facilities, in most cases as the exclusive alternative to proper therapy or rehabilitation.

Even in cases where city officials have closed facilities or removed patients, proper data keeping of their whereabouts is often unknown. Community services to assist and support their return to the community are nonexistent.

DRI has served as a watchdog for people with disabilities for more than two decades. In 2010, it released a report documenting extensive segregation and abuse in the nation’s institutional facilities, prompting a set of mental health reforms.

Early this year, in another report [PDF], it uncovered considerable evidence of forced sterilization and rape of women with psychosocial or psychiatric disabilities in government-run facilities.

In 2006, Mexico signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“DRI’s most recent investigation into Mexico reveals that, despite heavy international pressure, there is still a lack of oversight and accountability of custodial institutions for children in Mexico City,” the report states. “Mexico fails and continues to fail to fulfill its most basic obligations under international law toward a vulnerable population.”