The Mexican military is failing to hold its members accountable for human rights abuses, according to a report released April 29 by Human Rights Watch (HRW). According to the report, the use of the military by President Felipe Calderón to combat drug cartels has resulted in human rights violations by soldiers, including killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions. The report states that these abuses have gone unpunished, with no convictions resulting from any investigations.
The report underscores the importance of holding human rights violators accountable:
Such horrific abuses directly undermine the goal of stopping drug-related violence and improving public security. The army is currently deployed in the areas of the country most torn by drug-related violence. It would be in the military’s best interest to act and be seen to act in a manner that is professional and respectful of civilians and human rights. When soldiers commit serious human rights crimes, they damage that image, alienating civilians and generating distrust and fear of the army in populations that otherwise are best placed to assist law enforcement efforts. The abuses also run counter to one of the main purposes that the armed forces are charged with serving in public security operations: enforcing the law and protecting members of the public—not harming them.
HRW recommends moving investigations of military personnel to the civilian justice system.
HRW has previously criticized Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) for not doing enough to promote remedies and reforms needed to end abuses. Last year, in a report to the Mexican National Congress, CNDH accused the military of committing grave human rights abuses, including the torture, rape and murder of civilians. Amnesty International (AI) also sent a letter to Calderon raising concerns about human rights violations committed by military personnel. (Jurist, April 30)