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Mexico: military investigations into military abuses lead to impunity

Human Rights Watch publicou esta semana un informe sobre violacións dos Direitos Humanos perpetradas por membros do exército mexicano, que seguen na impunidade porque son investigadas polo propio exército. O informe leva por título “Uniform Impunity: Mexico’s Misuse of Military Justice to Prosecute Abuses in Counternarcotics and Public Security Operations”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

“When one judges oneself, one always tries to find a justification. [Military officers] simply try to cover for one another.” (widow of a young man killed by soldiers explaining her doubts about the impartiality of the military justice system)

Since taking office, President Felipe Calderón has relied heavily on the armed forces to fight serious drug-related violence and organized crime. The need to improve public security is clear. Mexico is facing powerful drug cartels that are engaged in violent turf battles, an influx of sophisticated weapons, a large number of kidnappings and executions in several Mexican states, and shocking forms of violence including beheadings. The competition and fighting among powerful cartels, as well as shootouts between cartel members and law enforcement agents, have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, police, and members of the military. The numbers of victims have risen significantly since 2006, with the death toll reaching an estimated 6,000 in 2008.

Mexico has used its armed forces in counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations for decades. But the visibility of the armed forces in law enforcement operations has increased dramatically under the Calderón administration, which has portrayed the deployment of the army as one of its key strategies to combat drug trafficking and increase public security. Thousands of members of the military have been incorporated into the federal police force, and more than 40,000 military and police officers have been deployed throughout the country. In very violent cities, such as Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, local governments have appointed high ranking military officers to head the police forces. The Calderón administration has stated that the use of the army is temporary, but has yet to present even a provisional plan for withdrawal of the troops.

While engaging in law enforcement activities, Mexico’s armed forces have committed serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions. The abuses detailed in this report include an enforced disappearance, the rape of indigenous women during counterinsurgency and counternarcotics operations in Southern Mexico, the torture and arbitrary detention of environmental activists during counternarcotics operations, and several cases of torture, rape, killings, and arbitrary detentions of dozens of people during public security operations in various Mexican states in 2007 and 2008. Many victims of the abuses documented in this report had no connection to the drug trade or insurgencies.

Such horrific abuses directly undermine the goal of stopping drug-related violence and improving public security. The army is currently deployed in the areas of the country most torn by drug-related violence. It would be in the military’s best interest to act and be seen to act in a manner that is professional and respectful of civilians and human rights. When soldiers commit serious human rights crimes, they damage that image, alienating civilians and generating distrust and fear of the army in populations that otherwise are best placed to assist law enforcement efforts. The abuses also run counter to one of the main purposes that the armed forces are charged with serving in public security operations: enforcing the law and protecting members of the public—not harming them.

An important reason such abuses continue is that they go unpunished. And they go unpunished in significant part because most cases end up being investigated and prosecuted by the military itself. By allowing the military to investigate itself through a system that lacks basic safeguards to ensure independence and impartiality, Mexico is, in practice, allowing military officers involved in law enforcement activities to commit egregious human rights violations with impunity. […]

3 Maio 2009 - Posted by | Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Mexico, Politics

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