Washington, DC—Mexico’s defense ministry (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) has until Friday, March 29 to comply with a request by the transparency and freedom of information agency (INAI, by its Spanish initials) to publish its reports on use of force incidents. In order to fully comply with the request, SEDENA would also have to publish any other reports containing information about military confrontations with organized criminal groups, including statistics on civilian deaths and injuries by the armed forces over an approximate four-year period. A coalition of journalists, activists, and Mexico press freedom organizations had previously requested under freedom of information laws that the defense ministry make the data public. The official response was that no such registry existed during the time period in question (April 2014 to November 2018); even though under Mexican law the defense ministry is required to keep detailed records on use of force and the use of lethal force.
In reaction to the upcoming deadline facing the defense ministry, Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights, Maureen Meyer, at research and advocacy group the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) issued the following statement:
“The lack of transparency about military use of force, including lethal use of force, makes it that much harder to hold those who violate human rights accountable. Those impacted by military abuse, and the families of those unlawfully killed by the military, have the right to know when, where, and how these incidents happened. In order to have a more informed debate about the need for better oversight of Mexico’s security bodies and to hold officials accountable, the public also has the right to know about these incidents. This is especially important as members of Congress are moving forward with legislation to establish the new National Guard.
“A greater culture of transparency within the Mexican police and military is essential for deterring future abuses. As WOLA has documented, impunity for human rights violations committed by soldiers is rampant. Ensuring that strong accountability mechanisms are in place needs to be a priority for the Mexican government as it establishes the National Guard and moves away from relying on a militarized security strategy.”