Groups Ask International Criminal Court to Investigate Mexico Military Atrocities

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Non-governmental organizations have called on the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed by security forces in Mexico, underscoring the perceived impunity and brutality with which these officials have acted during Mexico’s battle against organized crime.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and two Mexican human rights groups presented a report on September 12 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague regarding some 30 cases and 95 victims of alleged atrocities perpetrated by the Mexican military and state security forces. The acts in question included torture, severe deprivation of liberty, and forced disappearances.

According to the report, members of these forces — including high-level officials — largely targeted poor and lower-middle class civilians, falsely framing them as participants in organized crime groups.

The report argued that these cases fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction because they may qualify as crimes against humanity, due to how systematically the abuses were carried out and how widespread they were. 

All the cases are from the small peninsular state of Baja California, and took place between 2006 to 2013. The human rights organizations behind the report indicated they picked cases from this state as it was one of the first places in Mexico to see joint anti-drug operations by Mexican federal armed forces and police, during ex-President Felipe Calderon’s administration. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The choice to present these cases to the ICC points to the difficulty of prosecuting military officials for these atrocities in Mexico. This is due in part to the fact that in Mexico, cases involving the armed forces are often referrred to military courts even when they should by international standards fall under civil jurisdiction — as in the case of human rights abuses.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Rights

This is not the first time such an action has been taken. In 2011, Mexican activists called on the ICC to look into the numerous deaths, tortures and rapes that occurred at the hands of security forces and drug cartels during the Calderon drug war. Specific cases have also been referred to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

As highlighted by a recent Amnesty International report identifying a 600 percent rise in abuse and torture by security officials in Mexico between 2003 and 2013 — a period that largely coincides with the Calderon drug war — the cases presented to the ICC are far from isolated. In addition to torturing victims to force them to “confess” their involvement in organized crime, there have been indications of security forces committing extrajudicial killings in which they paint the victims as “aggressors” killed in “confrontations.”

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