Four rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the past two years and a historic judgment by the Mexican Supreme Court in July 2011 have clearly established Mexico’s obligation to stop using the military justice system to investigate and prosecute human rights violations committed by the military. Furthermore, one of the requirements included in US support for Mexico through the Merida Initiative is “that civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities are investigating and prosecuting, in accordance with Mexican and international law, members of the federal police and military forces who have been credibly alleged to have committed violations of human rights, and the federal police and military forces are fully cooperating with the investigations.” As WOLA and other organizations have stated on several occasions, it is clear that this requirement will not be met until Mexico’s Military Code of Justice is reformed to exclude all alleged human rights violations from the military justice system and the Mexican Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) begins to actively transfer cases to civilian jurisdiction.
In this memo, WOLA explains the implications of the Mexican Supreme Court’s July 2011 ruling. The memo also examines three cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers and the status of their transfer from military to civilian courts. This analysis makes clear that SEDENA is not actively transferring cases from military to civilian jurisdiction and, with the exception of the cases that have gone before the Inter-American Court, it continues to assert its jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute soldiers alleged to have committed abuses.
For further information on this important issue, please see the press release issued on January 29 by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center on SEDENA’s recent appeal of a federal judge’s historic decision to transfer a case from military to civilian jurisdiction.