Mexican human rights attorney Netzaí Sandoval on Nov. 25 filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague asking the court to investigate human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity by the security forces under President Felipe Calderón’s campaign against the drug cartels. The complaint, backed by 23,000 signatures, names 470 cases of human rights abuses by government forces since 2006, and estimates 40,000 dead in drug-related violence. The complaint also names Public Security Minister Genaro García Luna, Defense Secretary Guillermo Galván and fugitive Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzmán AKA “El Chapo” (long held to be secretly collaborating with the Calderón administration).
Sandoval said rights defenders have exhausted their recourses within Mexico: “The Mexican legal system does not specifically define these crimes, so there is no way to prosecute those who commit them. Moreover, there is no political will to investigate the widespread violence.” Mexico’s Governance Secretariat issued a statement dismissing Sandoval’s efforts, saying “the public safety policy that has been implemented by no means constitutes an international crime.” It asserted that the government’s actions “are aimed at stopping criminal organizations and protecting all citizens.”
The move comes just as the G20 has named Calderón as its chair for the coming year.
Before the complaint was filed, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said in remarks at the Federal Judicial Institute in Mexico City that The Hague would likely not take up the case. “To open a case there would have to be war crimes or crimes against humanity,” he said. “We don’t judge political decisions or political responsibility.” (Jurist, Nov. 27; NYT, Nov. 26; AP, Nov. 25; IPS, Nov. 24; The Guardian, Nov. 10; LAHT, Nov. 4)
Days after Moreno Ocampo made his remarks, the bound and gagged bodies of 26 men were found in abandoned vehicles in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, in Jalsico state. The corpses were discovered Nov. 24 stuffed in three vehicles left near the Millennium Arches, a major city landmark; each of the dead had been shot in the head.
The discovery came less than 24 hours after a similar one in downtown Culiacán, capital of Sinaloa state, where the charred remains of 17 men were left in two pick-up trucks. While some were wearing bullet-proof vests, several have been identified as seemingly random civilians—a baker, a truck driver, a soft-drink vendor, a dental technician. Four bodies were found a few hours later in the Sinaloa town of Calomatillo, and another three in Salvador Alvarado. (AP, Nov. 25; WP, EFE, Nov. 24)