Summary: Mexican Congress agrees historic reform of Military Code of Justice

On 30th April 2014, the Mexican Congress approved amendments to the Military Code of Justice, establishing for the first time restrictions on the use of military courts. Cases of human rights violations against civilians must now be tried in the civilian court system rather than by military tribunals. This reform comes in response to four cases brought to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2009-10, the first of which was litigated by SRT grantee CMDPDH (Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights). SRT grantee the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) was involved in litigation of the other three cases along with two other human rights organisations.

The reform was approved unanimously by the Senate on 24th April and by the Chamber of Deputies on 30th April.

As Mexico’s military court proceedings are held largely in secret, critics allege that military personnel are able to commit serious human rights violations, including murder, torture and rape, with impunity. Well-known cases include the rape of indigenous women from Guerrero state by soldiers in the early 2000s, and the forced disappearance in the 1970s of indigenous men, also from Guerrero. The victims have sought justice for years but have not been able to hold their alleged attackers to account. The Mexican government issued an apology for both cases in 2011 following an order from the Inter-American Court.

Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL’s Executive Director, said, “This reform bill is a significant step forward for the human rights agenda in Mexico and is an example of what can be achieved through a democratic process of discussion”.

Full press release from CEJIL (in Spanish only):

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