Historic Step Forward by Mexico’s Supreme Court

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On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, Mexico’s Supreme Court handed down a historic ruling that declared unconstitutional a section of the military code that has been used to grant military courts jurisdiction over all crimes committed by the Mexican armed forces, thereby permitting the military to investigate their own soldiers accused of even torture, rape and extrajudicial execution of civilians and thwarting victims in their efforts to find justice.  

In this landmark 8-2 ruling, judges decided that the case of Bonfilio Rubio Villegas—a 29- year-old indigenous Nahua  man who was killed when soldiers opened fire on a bus he was traveling on passed by a military checkpoint near Huamuxtitlán, Guerrero – should be transferred from military to civilian court.    Although this is an important step forward, at this time the Court’s decision only applies to Bonfilio Rubio’s case because in Mexico, the Supreme Court must rule the same way in five different cases to set a legally binding precedent. 

LAWG joins with partners in Mexico and U.S. in applauding this decision as a step forward to combat the almost complete impunity that has long-persisted when soldiers have committed human rights violations, against civilians. 

A statement issued by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center and other U.S. and Mexican human rights organization, including LAWG, highlights certain aspects of the ruling.

“In case this ruling becomes and establishes state law, the decision will restrict military jurisdiction in cases where personnel from military forces commit human rights violations against civilians. This, in turn, will ensure that neither victims nor their families confront incompetent military authorities to exercise their rights of access to justice, due process, and reparations for damages caused. Henceforth, civil court judges who know how to handle such cases will ensure that the procedure is substantiated before courts with greater margins of independence and impartiality.”

To read the full statement issued by Mexican and U.S. human rights organizations, including LAWG, click here. (Spanish only)