Mexico: Congress must seize an historic opportunity to curb military impunity

The Mexican Congress must pass a reform of the Code of Military Justice that would see military personnel implicated in human rights violations against civilians face investigation and trial in the civilian justice system, Amnesty International said today.

The proposed reform, approved last week by the Senate is due to be debated and voted this week by the Chamber of Deputies, just before the current legislative session ends.

“The reform of the Code of Military Justice would be an historic move. The lack of independence and impartiality of the military justice system has ensured impunity until now, preventing justice for the victims of human rights violations committed by the Mexican military,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s researcher on Mexico.

Over the years, Armed Forces personnel suspected of involvement in ill-treatment and torture, unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations, have routinely escaped justice.

“The bill represents an important advance in the protection of human rights, and is the result of years of campaigning and litigation by human rights organizations representing victims,” said Rupert Knox.

“The civilian justice system is far from perfect but it offers better guarantees for the victims and their relatives to secure truth, justice and reparation in line with international human rights standards.”

The reform is part of Mexico’s measures to comply with judgements of the Inter American Court of Human Rights in the cases of Rosendo Radilla, Valentina Rosendo Cantu, Ines Fernandez Ortega and Teodoro Montiel- Rodolfo Cabrera, who all suffered a range of grave human rights violations at the hands of military personnel in recent decades.

Nevertheless, Amnesty International believes that the reform falls short of full compliance with these judgements as human rights violations committed against military personnel by other members of the military are not covered by the reform and will remain within the jurisdiction of the military courts.

There is also concern that the reform leaves the door open to military prosecutors and police conducting investigations of ordinary crimes increasing their role in the criminal justice system.

“In subsequent reforms, we urge the Mexican government and legislature to accept that military victims also deserve equal protection of the law and address these issues,” said Rupert Knox.