President Calderon Introduces Bill to Allow Military Members to be Tried in Civilian Courts for Certain Serious Crimes

19 10 2010

Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Military Fatigues, January of 2007.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon introduced this Monday a bill in the Senado de la República (the Senate) to allow civilian courts to try members of the military for three specific crimes related to human rights violations: rape, torture and forced disappearance of persons. Per Mexican constitutional right, the President of the Republic can introduce bills to congress [congress members and state legislatures can do so too].

The tentative change on the law is especially significant due to the increased role of the Mexican military in every–day operations on the so-called Mexican Drug War initiated by President Calderon in 2006. As of February of 2010, the Military remain the third most trusted institution in Mexico, just after the Church (#1) and Universities (#2), according to Consulta Mitofsky [the President is #8; political parties land a poor #13].

The proposed amendment is done, according to Mr. Calderon, to comply with international treaties and the recommendation of the Inter–American Court of Human Rights on the case of Mr. Rosendo Radilla. Mr. Radilla, a local activist of Atoyac, Guerrero, was arrested at a military checkpoint in 1974 because he “composed corridos [folk songs]” probably considered subversive; he was never seen again. At the time, the Mexican government and military was engaged in what was known as the Dirty War against dissidents and guerrilla members. On November 29, 2009, the Inter-American Court found Mexico liable and ordered reparations — including “Constitutional and legislative reforms in matters of military jurisdiction [;]” payments for $12,000 USD for loss of income since 1974; $1,300 USD for consequential damages; $30,000 USD for non–pecuniary damages, and; $25,000 USD for costs and expenses.

[It is worth noting that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights takes cases per application by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The Court sits in Washington, DC; the Commission sits in San Jose, Costa Rica.]

The L.A. Times has a  different reading of the President’s initiative: they see it as a concession made to a U.S. Congress “key requirement” of the approved “$1.4-billion security aid package for Mexico, known as the Merida Initiative, in 2008.”

I would think that the Inter–American Court of Human Rights opinion was the deciding factor on President Calderon’s initiative, and the compliance with the key requirement of the Merida Initiative is a helpful byproduct that broadened the number of crimes that will allow for civilian trials of the military. But in reality the bill satisfies both interests.

The amendment perhaps will pass without much opposition in Congress.




2 responses

8 02 2016
Lahoma Chin

Hey commentary . I loved the analysis , Does anyone know where my assistant could get ahold of a sample DA 31 form to complete ?

8 02 2016
Ignacio Pinto-Leon

I understand form DA-31 does not refer to the Mexican military; unfortunately I will not be able to assist. Perhaps you can find a better answer at diverse fora such as

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