Rights groups rap Mexico plan on military trials

AP News
Posted: Oct 19, 2010 8:37 PM
Rights groups rap Mexico plan on military trials

Mexican President Felipe Calderon's proposal to let civilian authorities rather than the military investigate and try some human rights cases involving troops doesn't go far enough, human rights groups said Tuesday.

Calderon on Monday sent the Senate a proposal asking for a revision in an article of the constitution on the jurisdiction of military courts. He wants civilian officials to have the authority to investigate disappearances, torture and rape committed by military personnel against civilians but not other crimes.

International human rights groups have criticized Mexico for failing to prosecute alleged abuses by some of the thousands of Mexican troops deployed to fight drug traffickers, including the killings of innocent bystanders in shootouts between gunmen and soldiers.

At least 45,000 troops have been deployed to drug hot spots since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006. More than 29,000 people have died in drug-related violence since then.

Calderon's proposal comes in response to a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in November that condemned Mexico for failing to adequately investigate the 1974 disappearance of a guerrilla sympathizer during the country's "dirty war."

The Costa Rica-based court ordered Mexico to thoroughly investigate and punish those responsible for the Aug. 25, 1974, disappearance of community leader Rosendo Radilla in the southern state of Guerrero. Radilla, 25, was allegedly taken by soldiers in the city of Atoyac, then a hotbed of activity by leftist guerrilla groups.

Maureen Meyer, a Mexico expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, which promotes human rights and democracy in the region, said in a statement that the proposal falls short of what's expected of Mexico.

"Victims of human rights violations by soldiers deserve a comprehensive reform of the military code so their cases can be tried by civilian courts," Meyer said.

London-based Amnesty International issued a statement calling Calderon's plan insufficient and urged Mesican lawmakers to include all violations of human rights by troops, as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights proposed.

"Only then will Congress demonstrate its commitment to ensure that there is no more impunity for serious human rights abuses," the human rights watchdog group said.

In a December report, Amnesty said Mexican soldiers have carried out torture and forced disappearances while fighting drug cartels. It said one case involves 25 Tijuana police officers detained on corruption allegations by soldiers who allegdely put the officers' feet in water and applied electric shocks to their bodies, including their genitals.