Mexico’s human rights violence on the rise, as neither military nor justice system provide security

News Release

September 27, 2011

WATERLOO, CANADA — September 27 — Foreign governments supporting Mexico’s war on drugs should focus on strengthening civilian rule of law and encourage judicial reform to ensure that military personnel accused of human rights abuse are held accountable, according to a new report from The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

Military Justice and Impunity in Mexico’s Drug War, released under CIGI’s Security Sector Reform Issue Papers series, comes at an important time as last week saw the deadliest attacks in Mexico’s drug war when 35 dead bodies were found in Veracruz and earlier this year the Global Commission on Drug Policy published a report stating that the “global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

In the report, it is argued that the military, despite the Mexican government’s obligation to reform the country’s judicial system as per recent rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and obligations set out by the American Convention, has been overstepping constitutional duties as per Article 129, and has been acting with relative impunity. “[During] Calderón’s administration, over 47,337 people – the overwhelming majority of them civilians – have been killed in the war on drugs,” says Kristen Bricker, a Mexico-based freelance journalist who authored the report. “The Mexican military’s jurisdiction over crimes committed by soldiers against civilians is completely out of line with international standards.”

While President Felipe Calderón has proposed reforms to the Code of Military Justice, monthly averages of 48,750 soldiers continue to fight the war on drugs with support from the US’s Medina Initiative. Particularly concerning is that Calderón’s proposal, which has since been annulled by a Supreme Court decision, would only prosecute three human rights crimes – torture, forced disappearance and rape committed by soldiers against civilians – in federal court. And as per Article 57.11 of the Code, the military would continue to assume jurisdiction over all other crimes committed by active-duty soldiers. The Arce Initiative, put forward by Senator René Arce from Mexico’s opposition party, is the only proposed reform to military jurisdiction that complies with both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights rulings and international human rights law.

Mexico, finding itself forced to reform an unbalanced judicial system, is in need of civilian rule of law in order to address human rights violations, according to the report. This is a priority that can be promoted by donor governments who are committed to increasing transparency, combating corruption and halting rampant human rights abuses.

Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI
Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 238, Email: [email protected]

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM (Research In Motion), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit


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