WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
20 Oct 2010 | News

13 Mexican organizations agree that the proposed military jurisdiction reform in Mexico is not sufficient

Below is a letter signed by 13 Mexican organizations responding to the proposed reform to military jurisdiction in Mexico

Civil society organizations condemn incomplete and counterproductive official proposal to reform military jurisdiction in Mexico

  • President Felipe Calderón's bill would keep intact the structures that currently promote impunity for military abuses
  • The reform that is necessary is to limit military jurisdiction to crimes against military discipline committed by members of the armed forces
  • Mexico would be no closer to complying with its international human rights obligations with this bill, including its duty to implement the binding orders of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The bill proposing reforms to military jurisdiction that Mexican President Felipe Calderón presented in the Senate yesterday would leave intact the structures that currently promote impunity in cases of human rights crimes committed by military personnel against the civilian population.  The proposed reforms fall short of complying with the government's duty to adjust its laws to conform to its international human rights obligations.

The central required reform, emphasized by victims of human rights violations, civil society organizations, and international human rights bodies, is not reflected in the bill, because the proposal does not aim to establish civilian controls over the armed forces.In particular, it is necessary to limit military jurisdiction to matters directly related to military discipline only.  The current bill contains a list of just three crimes that would be excluded from military jurisdiction, leaving a wide margin for impunity.  There is no justification for continuing to allow military jurisdiction to be applied to cases beyond matters of military discipline. 

The exclusion of three crimes – forced disappearance, rape, and torture – which would nonetheless still be investigated in military jurisdiction; the possibility of reclassifying these crimes to keep them in military jurisdiction even in the trial stage; and the manipulation of the facts of such cases by military investigators, give rise to more problems than advances and jeopardize the rights of victims.  The only possible way to end impunity in such cases is to exclude from military jurisdiction entirely all crimes committed by the armed forces against civilians.

In addition, the powers assigned in the bill to the Military Investigatory Police, as a body of the Public Prosecutor, and in particular the proposal that the Military Investigatory Police should be the authority that provides protection to victims or witnesses of military abuses, goes against all reason and would be ineffective to safeguard the lives and well-being of such individuals.

It is absurd that the President has presented this bill as a sign of commitment to human rights and the government's international treaty obligations.  This is a cosmetic gesture meant to give the appearance of reforming what, in practice, will continue to remain the same, especially considering that the tendency for the military to commit human rights crimes continues unabated.

The bill cannot be considered in any way to comply with the binding reparations orders issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the cases of Rosendo Radilla Pacheco, Inés Fernández Ortega, and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, in which the Court specifies that Mexico must reform article 57 of its Code of Military Justice in light of the requirement that military jurisdiction cannot intervene under any circumstances in any crime committed by the armed forces against civilians.

None of the actions taken thus far by Mexico's President and Defense Department indicate a change in the lack of political will to put an end to one of the chief obstacles that makes access to justice impossible for victims of military abuses: the unconstitutional use of military jurisdiction to investigate and judge these cases.  Until this panorama changes, it will likewise be impossible to consolidate democracy in Mexico. 


Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, Chiapas
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Francisco de Vitoria (CDHFFV)
Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh)
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan, Guerrero
Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres, Chihuahua
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
Centro de Justicia para la Paz y el Desarrollo, Jalisco
Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)
Fundación Diego Lucero, Michoacán
IDHEAS, Litigio Estratégico en Derechos Humanos
Indignación, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Yucatán
Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia (IMDHD)
Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos "Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos" (conformada por 70 organizaciones)