In Rare Move, Mexico Charges Military General With Human Rights Crimes

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Mexican authorities have charged a general and 29 soliders under his command with murder and a range of human rights abuses in a rare crackdown on military impunity.

The AP reports that Manuel Moreno Avina’s soldiers have testified about torture, kidnapping, extrajudicial killings, drug trafficking, and theft that occurred under his command.

Moreno also allegedly ordered the killings of a state policeman, an employee of the federal prosecutor’s office, and a local policeman, using La Linea hitmen, enforcers for the Juarez Cartel.

Attorney General of Military Justice Jesus Gabriel Lopez Benitez told Reforma that Moreno would be tried in a military court. The first reports of wrongdoings by the general and his men were given to military investigators in 2009.

InSight Crime Analysis

The charges against Moreno and his subordinates come amid a heated debate over the militarization of Mexico’s fight against drug trafficking. A November 2011 Human Rights Watch report deeply criticized Mexico’s military for widespread human rights abuses. President Felipe Calderon’s administration responded that the report “did not reflect the real situation of Mexico.”

The fact that authorities first heard of Moreno’s wrongdoings in 2009 points to a culture of impunity within the Mexican military. While Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that military abuses against civilians should be dealt with in civilian courts, the military has resisted this so far.

However, with Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN) facing dim prospects in an upcoming election, authorities may want to use Moreno to show Mexico they are serious about ending military impunity. What’s more, some of Mexico’s Merida Initiative funding has been withheld before over human rights concerns, like those highlighted by Moreno’s case. Authorities may choose to make an example of him.

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