Mexico: Five things that need to change in the new Law on the Use of Force

By Diana Sanchez, Mexico campaigner at Amnesty International

The new National Law on the Use of Force sets out how and when the security forces in Mexico, such as police and the national Guard, can use force, but what implications does it have for human rights?

Although these authorities are exclusively permitted to use force in certain situations to do their job, there are a number of problems with this law, which was passed in May, that put the security of everyone in Mexico at risk. 

  1. The use of lethal force is not restricted

The law does not clarify that the security forces can only take someone's life if that person is about to take the life of another person or people.

  1. Many types of weapons are permitted by the law, but it does not specify how and when they can be used

The law does not prohibit the use of electric shock batons and belts. These weapons do not help enforce the law, they just cause pain and could easily be used for torture or ill-treatment. These types of weapons should always be banned. 

On the other hand, there are weapons that, although they could be used legitimately in some situations, can injure lots of people at the same time, such as pressurized water hoses and explosives. The law does not set out restrictions on how and when to use these weapons , and this can put anyone who is nearby when they are used at risk.

  1. The law does not require that minimum force is used

Officials can use different levels of force to resolve the same situation. The law does not state that the authorities should do everything possible to avoid using force and, if the use of force is unavoidable, then the minimum level necessary to enforce the law should be used.

  1. The law does not mention protecting third parties

When faced with a dangerous situation, the authorities' use of force can affect anyone as the law does not require that officials protect people who do not represent a risk or threat. 

  1. The law puts peaceful demonstrations at risk

The law says that force will not be used if a demonstration has a lawful purpose. However, whatever the reason for a demonstration, the authorities should not use force to silence it. This would jeopardize freedom of expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Force may only be used against those who resort to violence or endanger other people. In such cases, only the level of force necessary to gain control of the situation should be used.

The law must be precise so that law enforcement authorities know how they should act in each specific case.

Mexico needs better laws to be a safer country.

This article was originally published by El Universal