On April 25, WOLA, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights sent a letter to members of the Mexican Senate calling on them to approve reforms to the Military Code of Justice. A bill incorporating elements that are essential for the Code’s comprehensive reform was approved by the Committees on Justice, the Interior and Legislative Studies on April 19. The bill establishes that civilian authorities and courts must have sole responsibility for the investigation of crimes and human rights violations committed by members of the military against the civilian population. The proposed reforms would bring the Code of Military Justice into compliance with sentences issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In the letter, the organizations ask the senators to pay particular attention to certain sections of the bill that lack clarity, especially those sections that address limiting the role of military authorities and the military’s legal framework. The organizations believe that it is essential that investigations of abuses committed by soldiers be carried out solely by civilian authorities; in addition, the Ministerial Military Police should be obligated to notify civilian authorities as soon as knowledge of an abuse comes to their attention. The letter also expresses concern about the possibility that the reform will allow for the establishment of special tribunals for soldiers within the civilian justice system.
As WOLA and other organizations have emphasized in the past, the Code of Military Justice must be reformed to exclude all alleged human rights violations from military jurisdiction and the Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) must begin to transfer such cases to civilian jurisdiction. This reform is necessary in order to comply with decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Mexican Supreme Court; it is also required in order for Mexico to fulfill the conditions placed on U.S. assistance to Mexico channeled through the Mérida Initiative.