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Oral statement by Human Rights Watch during the UN Human Rights Council’s plenary consideration of Mexico’s UPR outcome

Universal Periodic Review

Thank you.

The UPR was an important opportunity for Mexico to acknowledge that one of the most significant human rights problems the country is facing today is the failure of accountability for serious human rights violations committed by its military.  It is extremely disappointing that recommendations issued by states during Mexico's UPR about this pressing issue did not enjoy the support of Mexico.

Since President Calderon deployed thousands of troops to combat drug trafficking, there has been a dramatic increase in complaints of military abuses. The dysfunctional Mexican military justice system routinely takes over the investigation of even the most egregious abuses, including alleged rapes, killings, arbitrary detentions, and torture, by adopting an excessively broad definition of what constitutes an "act of service."  This broken system has led to impunity. As of April 2009, the military attorney general has been unable to provide a single example in the last ten years in which a member of the military accused of committing a human rights violation was convicted by military courts. 

The Mexican government has stated in its own UPR presentation that its National Human Rights Program "includes the commitment of the military forces to promote reforms in the field of prosecution and administration of justice before military tribunals in accordance with Mexico's international obligations." It also supported Ireland's, Canada's, and Azerbaijan's recommendations to review the Code of Military Justice, to fully investigate army abuses, and to end the climate of impunity.

It is impossible to fulfill this commitment if the Mexican military continues to consider that it has jurisdiction to investigate these serious human rights violations through a military justice system that lacks basic safeguards to ensure independence and impartiality.  In Mexico, the secretary of defense wields both executive and judicial power over the armed forces, military judges do not have security of tenure, civilian review of military court decisions is very limited, and there is virtually no public scrutiny of military investigations and trials.

To end this pattern of impunity, and to comply with recommendations issued by several states during the UPR and by various international human rights bodies over the past decade, Mexico must ensure that cases, in which members of the military stand accused of human rights violations against civilians, are immediately sent to civilian state or federal prosecutors.

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