Monday, September 15, 2014

Mexico Security Forces Accused of Crimes Against Humanity

On Friday, a group of NGOs -- two Mexican and one international -- presented the International Criminal Court (ICC) with a report (see .pdf) detailing abuses committed by security personnel, primarily of the army, in Baja California from 2006 to 2012.

According to the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), the Citizen Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), security officers in the state perpetrated “systematic and widespread” abuses “within the framework of a government policy.”  

As the NYT notes, the report’s authors found that military and police “arrested civilians in their homes without any legal warrant, subjected them to acts of torture in military facilities, forced them to sign blank sheets of paper that would be used for their self-incrimination or to incriminate others, and placed drugs and arms in their possession as ‘evidence,’ ” all with the “direct participation” of top officials in Baja California.

The abuses detailed in the report occurred under the administration of Felipe Calderon, but the fact that the cases are being presented to the ICC is in itself an indictment of current President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. Under the terms of the Rome Statute, which entered into force in Mexico in 2006, the ICC can only take on cases in which national courts are “unwilling or unable” to investigate or prosecute them. 

While Peña Nieto has criticized Calderon’s military-heavy approach to security, he has largely continued the policies of his predecessor. In its annual state of the nation report submitted to Congress earlier this month, the administration revealed that the government’s reliance on the military has increased, with the number of army patrols and drone operations up compared to last year.

News Briefs
  • Interestingly, while Peña Nieto has seemingly accepted a militarized approach to fighting insecurity in his own country, in recent weeks his government has been increasingly vocal in its opposition to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to deploy the National Guard along the border. Last month, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement formally protesting the move, but in a Friday interview with El Universal, Peña Nieto went even further, calling it the result of a “reprehensible” attitude.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet took a brief trip to Uruguay on Friday, where she announced that Chile would be closely watching two policies in the nearby country: the acceptance of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and marijuana regulation. The AFP reports that Bachelet told journalists that her government was “in a process of reviewing its legal framework” regarding marijuana, and Telesur notes that Chilean drug authorities recommended the removal of the drug from a list of banned substances in March.
  • In Uruguay, supporters of Frente Amplio candidate Tabare Vazquez are taking solace in signs of discord between the opposition Colorado and National parties with the October 26 elections fast approaching. While the two are historically opposed to each other, presidential challenger Luis Lacalle Pou of the National Party will likely need some support from the Colorado base in order to beat Vazquez in a likely runoff race in November. But the relationship between the two parties looked as rocky as ever this week after Colorado candidate Pedro Bordaberry accused Lacalle Pou of trying to orchestrate a backroom deal to secure his support in a second round, which Bordaberry characterized as “extortion” in remarks relayed to Busqueda magazine.
  • The latest poll in Brazil’s presidential race, released on Friday by Ibope, suggests that President Dilma Rousseff may have closed the gap between herself and challenger Marina Silva. According to the survey, the two are statistically tied in a second round matchup, with 43 percent for Silva and 42 for Rousseff.
  • In a ruling with important consequences for the application of Brazil’s Amnesty Law, last week a federal tribunal of Rio de Janeiro ruled that the prosecution of five military officials for the death of dissident lawmaker Rubens Paim in 1971 can proceed, as the charges constitute crimes against humanity.  As prosecutor Silvana Batini told O Globo, it is the first time that the Brazilian justice system has recognized that certain dictatorship abuses amount to crimes against humanity. The ruling has been challenged, however, and will proceed to the Supreme Court.
  • The conservative alliance of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has launched its latest attempt to attack the peace talks in Havana. As El Espectador reports, lawmakers of his party have requested that the government provide details about the immigration status of the Dutch-born FARC guerrilla negotiator Tanja Nijmeijer, and are calling for her expulsion from the process if she is found to be in violation of immigration rules.
  • Following Ecuador’s recent public endorsement of Colombia’s adherence to an agreement to cut aerial coca spraying along the Ecuadorean border, a joint bi-national committee announced on Friday that a ten kilometer anti-spraying “buffer zone” between the two would be cut in half, El Tiempo reports.
  • Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been placed under house arrest amidst a well-publicized investigation into allegations that he embezzled millions of dollars in public funds during his second term in office. The New York Times offers a good analysis of the political context of the court order, which comes as President Michel Martelly are wrangling over a bill to schedule  long-delayed  local and legislative elections.
  • The latest issue of The Economist has a critical take on what the magazine describes as the “intellectual fashion for ‘historical memory’” in Latin America. The author argues that the emergence of post-conflict museums and historical memory centers in the region has been accompanied by a kind of historical revisionism, in which the anti-democratic leanings of leftist dissidents and guerrilla groups are overlooked. The forgotten truth, the magazine asserts, “is that the cold war in Latin America was fought by two equally authoritarian sides.”