Supreme Court determines Law on Internal Security unconstitutional

Supreme Court building

Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Source: Wikipedia.

12/30/18 (written by kheinle) — Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN) made a significant decision in November regarding the proposed Law on Internal Security (Ley de Seguridad Interior). The law was meant to address Mexico’s notoriously high levels of crime and violence. It sought to expand safety on the domestic front, minimize threats towards internal security, and increase the role of the military in domestic affairs. The latter includes the military’s capacity to gather intelligence and evidence in proposed crimes.

On November 15, 2018, however, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, arguing that it went against both the Mexican Constitution and international treaties to which Mexico is a signatory. The Court also said that Mexico’s Congress, which had approved the law, should not legislate on matters of internal security. When the draft law was published in December 2017, Congress was controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), the party of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). On December 1, 2018, the new government took over under now-President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA) took office.

Critics of the Law on Internal Security

Despite its Congressional support, the law received pushback from civilian institutions and human rights activists. The Washington Office on Latin America shared its concern in a communication just weeks before the Supreme Court’s decision. WOLA noted the control it would have given the military in overseeing civilian authorities in domestic affairs, as well as its expanded role in investigations. “Paired with the absence of effective controls and accountability mechanisms to oversee those actions, this will limit the power of authorities within the civilian justice system, resulting in impunity,” WOLA stated. The law also drew ire from the public. A Change.org petition was submitted a month after the draft law was initially published with over 467,000 signatures urging the Mexican government to reject the law. WOLA summarized that the five main reasons for the public’s rebuke included:

  1. “Lack of accountability mechanisms and civilian oversight;
  2. Expanding the military’s jurisdiction over civilians;
  3. Insufficient regulation of the military’s use of force;
  4. Lack of transparency in how the Internal Security Law will be implemented; [and]
  5. The Internal Security Law disincentives police reform.”

The high court’s decision is one that Esmeralda Arosema de Troitiño, the spokesperson for Mexico’s Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, CIDH), argued set a precedent for President López Obrador’s incoming government. The Court’s decision “constitutes an indispensable judicial precedent as the base for the new government to present a concrete plan to gradually draw down military in public security matters…,” she said.

The developments with the Law on Internal Security paralleled President López Obrador’s ongoing push for a National Guard, which has also raised concerns about human rights and public safety.

Sources:

Cámara de Deputados del H. Congreso de la Unión. “Ley de Seguridad Interior.” Diario Oficial de la Federación. December 21, 2017. PDF.

Suarez-Enriquez, Ximena and Maureen Meyer. “Multiple Sectors Push Back Against the Implementation of Mexico’s New Internal Security Law.” WOLA. January 25, 2018.

Joint Statement. “International Observatory on Mexico: The Decision of Mexico’s Supreme Court on the Internal Security Law Will Set a Fundamental Precedent on Militarization in the Country and in the Region.” Washington Office on Latin America. November 2, 2018. 

Ferri, Pablo. “La justicia mexicana tumba la ley del gobierno saliente que perpetúa el papel policial del Ejército.” El País. November 16, 2018.

Roldán, Mariluz. “CIDH celebra invalidación de Ley de Seguridad Interior.” El Universal. November 26, 2018.

“Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard.” Justice in Mexico. December 24, 2018.

Critics voice concerns over Mexico’s proposed National Guard

infographic, structure / outline of National Guard

Representative Mario Delgado posted this infographic about the National Guard following the sub-committee’s approval. Source: Mario Delgado, Twitter.

12/24/18 (written by kheinle) — The plan to create a National Guard (Guardia Nacional) in Mexico advanced through the first round of congressional approval. On December 20, 2018, the Chamber of Deputies’ (la Cámara de Diputados) Committee on Constitutional Affairs (la Comisión de Puntos Constitucionales) approved the bill 18 votes in favor to 6 against. If full Congress approves, the National Guard would be a 50,000-person armed force created from the ranks of the Mexican military and police. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) proposed the force to address the seriously high levels of crime and violence in Mexico.

The bill would require amending 13 articles of the Mexican Constitution, some of which seek to mitigate concerns of human rights and civilian oversight. As Reuters reported, the constitutional changes “would mean that national guard members receive human rights training, are tried by civil courts and will not be able to move detainees to military institutions.” Initially, the National Guard was also going to be overseen by the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA). The bill approved in the Chamber of Deputies’ sub-committee, however, moved much of this control to the Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudana, SSPC). As the Latin America News Dispatch summarized, “While the unit would still be trained militarily, as was originally proposed, jurisdiction would pass to civilian authorities after five years, according to Representative Mario Delgado.” It continued, “The Senate will also be given the power to dissolve the new guard.”

Critics Speak Up

Despite these changes, critics have widely condemned the proposal. Causa en Común, a collective of more than 500 civil society organizations and businesses, among others, delivered a petition to Congress in November 2018 urging their elected officials to reject AMLO’s proposition. For her part, the director of the organization México Evalúa, Edna Jaime, criticized the National Guard in a November 2018 article titled, “No es más de lo mismo, es algo peor” (“It’s not more of the same; it’s worse”). Mexico’s crime and violence, she wrote, is associated with the dysfunctional State, the void of effective governing mechanisms, and a weak institution. The solution “is improving the capacity of the State” and focusing resources at the local levels, Jaime argued. “World peace is sustainable in local-level processes that operate with good mechanisms of global governance.”

DF Mayor speaking at event

Mexico City Mayor Sheinbaum turned down the idea of the National Guard in Mexico City. Source: Vanguardia.

Elected officials also voiced their concern. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum publicly announced that the National Guard would not be needed in the capital. The police are capable of delivering, she said, adding that the federal and local police forces would work closely together. Congresswoman Lucia Rojas also argued that the National Guard would only deepen the military-focused strategy already in Mexico. “And it’s become clear in the last 12 years,” she said, “that there’s absolutely no evidence that having the army on the streets helps to reduce the violence.” The military’s presence in Mexico’s domestic affairs has also led to an increase in the number of human rights violations perpetrated by members of the military against civilians, an issue that Justice in Mexico explored in a 2012 special report.

At the international level, organizations like the United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern, too. Jan Jarab of the UN’s Office on Human Rights in Mexico sent a letter to Congress following the Chamber of Deputies’ sub-committee vote. Approval of the bill, he wrote, “would establish at the constitutional level this paradigm of military involvement in security issues, the same one that has contributed to the deterioration of human rights in Mexico.” Jarab continued, “[It] would threaten the possibility of having a capable civil body in the future that could exercise public security in strict accordance with international human rights standards.”

AMLO is not the first Mexican president to pursue the idea of a National Guard. His predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), initially called for a 40,000-person force that was eventually scaled down to 5,000. AMLO’s current bill will soon be presented to the full Chamber of Deputies for consideration.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

June S. Beittel, “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations,” Congressional Research Service, July 3, 2018.

“Mexican president-elect’s party presents national guard plan.” Reuters. November 20, 2018.

Roldán, Maríhiz. “Más de 500 organizaciones manifestan su rechazo a la Guardia Nacional.” El Universal. November 20, 2018.

Angel, Arturo. “Los cambios clave en la propuesta de Guardia Nacional que fue aprobado en comisiones.” Animal Político. December 20, 2018.

Jiménez, Horacio and Alejandra Canchola. “Guardia Nacional arrancaría con mando militar y Senado la podría disolver: Delgado.” El Universal. December 20, 2018.

“Asylum seekers will be sent back to wait in Mexico.” Latin America News Dispatch. December 21, 2018.

“Diputados de México aprueban en comisiones la nueva Guardia Nacional.” RT. December 21, 2018.

Magallán, Antonio. “Sheimbaum se revela contra la Guardia Nacional de AMLO; asegura bastará con la Policía Federal y municipal.” Vanguardia. December 21, 2018.

Sánchez, Citlal Giles. “Preocupa a represenante de la ONU en México creación de la Guardia Nacional.” La Jornada Guerrero. December 22, 2018.

Attack on Military Convoy Leaves Six Dead in Sinaloa

Military vehicle set to fire by organized crime.

Military vehicle set on fire during organized crime attack, September 30th. Source: Negocios 360

10/11/2016 (written by lcalderon) — During the dawn hours of September 30th, a military convoy was ambushed by a heavily armed group of organized crime members. The convoy was in charge of transporting Julio Oscar Ortiz Vega, a.k.a. “El Kevin”,  from a small town in Badiraguato to Culiacán, both in Sinaloa, Mexico. “El Kevin” was an organized crime member and an alleged cousin of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was injured during an earlier shootout between drug cartels and the military in Badiraguato. After arresting him, military personnel provided medical assistance and decided to take him to a hospital in Culiacán, the capital city of the state of Sinaloa. The transfer was planned during the middle of the night to assure the detainee’s security.

The military escort was taken by surprise around 3:00 am on the international highway, Mexico 15, by a large group of criminals who were awaiting them with large caliber arms, grenades, and other explosives. During the confrontation, four military men died at the location and 11 were severely injured, including the paramedic who was in charge of assisting “El Kevin” in the ambulance. The criminals were successful in their mission and managed to take the ambulance with “El Kevin” inside. The injured individuals had to wait for almost an hour for aid and were then relocated to different hospitals in the state. Two of the survivors died later that day in the hospital.

After the attack, the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) launched a major operation in Culiacán to capture the attackers. The operation led to the securing of large caliber arms, ammunitions, tactical suits, federal police badges, bulletproof vests, and other equipment linked to the organized crime unit but no arrest directly related to the attack.

SFEAFE

Major Alfonso Duarte Mujica, 9th Military Zone in Sinaloa declared that the ambush was linked to Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s sons, Ivan and Alfredo Guzmán. Source: Sinaloa en Linea

Initially, Alfonso Duarte Mujica, Major of the 9th Military Zone in Sinaloa declared that the ambush was linked to Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s sons Ivan and Alfredo Guzmán, who are now suspects of being fighting for control of the Sinaloa cartel. However, the accused went to their father’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez to declare that they were not involved with the attack and requested an accurate and thorough investigation of the events. According to Milenio, the brothers declared “If we didn’t do it for our father, much less would we do it now!” when responding to the accusations.

Duarte Mujica’s allegations became even stronger when police started to believe that “El Kevin” was a cover up for the person who was in the ambulance that night. Sinaloa police started to suspect that the actual person in that ambulance was Aureliano Guzmán Loera “El Guano,” “El Chapo” Guzmán’s brother. Later, Mexico’s General Attorney’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República) and SEDENA released pictures of “El Kevin” before his rescue. In addition, media sources such as Mexico Rojo discarded the idea that “El Guano” was in that ambulance on September 30th.

Although not proven, Duarte Mujica’s allegations were not completely unreasonable. Badiraguato is a region in the Mexican state of Sinaloa that saw the birth of Mexico’s most famous drug kingpin: Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Guzmán was one of the founders of the strongest drug cartel –until recently- in Mexico, with its headquarters in Culiacán, Sinaloa. After the last arrest of “El Chapo” Guzmán, Sinaloa has become a warzone between his sons Iván and Alfredo Guzmán Salazar defending what is left of the Sinaloa cartel against their cousin Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán “El Mochomito” on the side of the Beltran Leyva cartel. The territorial dispute between the two cartels has unleashed a spike of violence in Sinaloa, especially in Culiacán.

Sources:

Asesinan a militares durante brutal tiroteo en Culiacán.” El Debate. September 30, 2016.

Ataque a militares en Sinaloa deja al menos 4 muertos.” Excelsior. September 30, 2016.

Flores, Raúl. Ligan a primo de ‘El Chapo’ a ataque contra militares en Sinaloa.” Excelsior. September 30, 2016.

Suman 5 militares muertos en emboscada en Sinaloa.” SDP Noticias. September 30, 2016. 

Hijos de ‘El Chapo’ niegan ataque a militares.” Mundo Hispanico. October 1, 2016.

Los hijos de “El Chapo” Guzmán sospechosos por emboscada a militares que dejó cinco muertos y 11 heridos en México.” BBC Mundo. October 1, 2016.

Sánchez, Jesús Alejandro. “Abogados: Hijos de “El Chapo” se deslindan de ataque de militares en Sinaloa.” Milenio.  October 1, 2016.

Él fue rescatado en emboscada a militares.” El Debate. October 3, 2016.

La Familia del Chapo le preocupa cacería militar en su contra.” Mexico Rojo. October 3, 2016.

Difunden foto del “Kevin”, presunto sicario rescatado en emboscada de Culiacán.” Proceso. October 4, 2016.

“¿Quiénes son los hijos del “Chapo” que disputan el imperio de su padre?” La Opinión. October 5, 2016.

 

Open Society Justice Initiative report details crimes against humanity in Mexico

cover report

Source: Open Society Justice Initiative.

10/03/16 (written by kheinle) — A report released by the Open Society Justice Initiative in June 2016 provides a scathing overview of crimes against humanity being committed in Mexico. The report, Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico, finds that not only have crimes against humanity occurred, but also that those responsible, namely the Mexican government and the Zetas criminal organization, have not been held accountable. This argument is largely built on the legal standards outlined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Mexico has been privy to since 2005. As Robert Varenik, Acting Executive Director of Open Society Justice Initiative, synthesized in a communication,

“Based on three years of research and over 100 interviews, the [Undeniable Atrocities] report examines the devastating toll of drug-related violence in Mexico and finds a reasonable basis to believe that federal security forces and members of criminal cartels have, since 2006, perpetrated killings, enforced disappearances, and torture on a widespread and systematic scale such that they constitute crimes against humanity.”

To arrive at the conclusion, the report begins with homicides. Only 10% of homicide cases that occurred between 2007 and 2012 resulted in convictions, the report reads, and only 16% of homicide investigations opened by federal prosecutors from 2009 through July 2015 led to indictments. The data proves worse for disappearances, whether criminal or enforced (perpetrated by state actors/law enforcement). As of February 2015, only 13 convictions resulted from 313 federal investigations into enforced disappearances, and not until August 2015 was a single soldier ever convicted for his or her involvement in cases of disappearances despite evidence proving otherwise. Meanwhile, 12 indictments and eight judgments were issued in 1,884 federal investigations into torture between 2006 and 2014, and cases of torture resulted in only six convictions between 2007 and April 2015.

Taking these findings into consideration vis-à-vis Mexico’s obligation to the standards set forth in the Rome Statute, the “analysis finds that the situation in Mexico meets the legal definition of crimes against humanity.” The report also considers Mexico’s responsibility as a state to protect its people, arguing that the government’s ability to do so has been undermined by its own legitimate strategy launched in 2007 by then President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) against organized crime. Undeniable Atrocities writes that the strategy “deployed the military and federal police [to the streets] to use overwhelming extrajudicial force against civilian populations perceived to be associated with criminal cartels, without adequate regulations on the use of force, and with almost no accountability for any of the abuses that followed.” Not only has this strategy led to an increase in human rights violations without proper oversight of the deployed military and police, but it also has hindered the Mexican government’s ability to protect its people. This can be considered ironic given the strategy’s ultimate goal was to increase the country’s safety and security by eliminating organized crime.

The government’s role in human rights violations discussed in Undeniable Atrocities (homicide, enforced disappearance, and torture) has long been a focus of national and international concern. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) is a reputable, independent source that documents these violations by state actors, as found in their public Recommendations (Recomendaciones) that detail credible accusations of violations and recommendations for how to mitigate and rectify the situation.

enforced disappearances and indictments

Source: “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiative.

In 2016 alone, five such CNDH recommendations have been issued to the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and an additional five to the Secretary of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina). The rate of recommendations issued against SEDENA (five recommendations over nine months for a .56 rate of recommendations/month) is significantly less than what Justice in Mexico documented in its 2012 report, “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Data used in that report shows that over a 62-month span under President Calderón dating May 2007 through July 2012, 101 recommendations were issued against SEDENA at a rate of 1.62 per month, thus nearly tripling SEDENA’s current rate. On the other hand, SEMAR’s rate of recommendations in 2016 (.56) is significantly higher than its rate under Calderón, when only 17 recommendations were issued during the same 62-month span (.27 recommendations/month).

Both military entities were recently issued recommendations from CNDH documenting human rights abuses, thus falling in line with the Undeniable Atrocities report. In August 2016, for example, CNDH’s “Recomendación No. 42/2016” detailed SEDENA’s role in a case in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero in 2012 that involved illegal search, arbitrary detention, and arbitrary execution of two minors and four adults. Two weeks later, CNDH issued a recommendation against SEMAR (Recomendación No. 43/2016) about a 2013 case in San Luis Potosí that involved violations of seven victims’ rights to liberty, personal security, personal integrity, and access to justice, as well as the torture of one of the victims.

The role of authorities in violating human rights and committing crimes against humanity, as Undeniable Atrocities argues, thus continues to be a pressing and present issue in Mexico. According to Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister (2000-2003), the Open Society Justice Initiative’s report is “the most crushing critique to date of the war against drugs waged by [Presidents] Calderón and Peña Nieto since the end of 2007.” Respected and well-known Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui also weighed in after reading the report, declaring that a “big debate” should be initiated in Mexico to address the crimes against humanity and hold those responsible accountable. The Undeniable Atrocities report builds on that comment with its recommendation. “The government must act without delay,” it reads, “to acknowledge the gravity of the situation: it must initiate urgent, extraordinary measures, including the invitation of international assistance to ensure independent, genuine investigations and prosecutions.” It will be interesting to see how the Peña Nieto administration addresses such calls for action during its final two years in office.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

Full Report. “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiatives. June 2016.

Press Release. “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiatives. June 2016.

“Undeniable Atrocities: Reactions.” Open Society Foundations. June 2016.

Recomendación No. 42/2016. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. August 31, 2016.

Recomendación No. 43/2016. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. September 14, 2016.

Email communication. Varenik, Robert O. via Jillian Winkler. Open Society Justice Initiatives and Open Society Foundations. September 21, 2016.

“La CNDH emite recomendación al Ejército por el asesinato de 6 personas, entre ellas 2 menores, ocurrido en Guerrero.” Sin Embargo. September 27, 2016.

Web. “Recomendaciones.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Last accessed October 1, 2016.