Ken Ellingwood / Los Angeles Times – 2010-10-21 00:18:01
MEXICO CITY (October 20, 2010) — A proposal by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to try soldiers in civilian courts doesn’t go far enough to protect people against abuse by troops assigned to the drug war, human rights advocacy groups said Tuesday.
The bill before Mexico’s Congress would require civilian trials for soldiers charged with torture, rape and forced disappearances. But rights advocates say the list excludes other serious crimes such as unlawful detention and extrajudicial killings.
“Any reform of the military code should include civilian jurisdiction for all human rights abuses, not just a selection of certain abuses,” said Maureen Meyer, who monitors Mexican issues at the Washington Office on Latin America.
Amnesty International and the Mexico office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights issued statements urging lawmakers to broaden the proposal to place every case of alleged abuse by soldiers under civilian jurisdiction.
Nik Steinberg, Mexico researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that under the measure, the military could seek to classify abuses as lesser offenses during preliminary investigations to steer cases from civilian prosecution.
Mexico’s human rights ombudsman has accused the army of manipulating the scenes of alleged abuses and obstructing outside investigations.
“This is a cosmetic gesture meant to give the appearance of reforming what, in practice, will continue to remain the same,” said a declaration by 13 Mexican rights groups.
Calderon submitted the bill Monday, saying it would allow Mexico to meet international standards and comply with a ruling last year by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a 1970s-era abuse case.
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