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Mexico high court says military abuses should be tried in civilian courts

The Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] ruled Tuesday that abuses by members of the military should be tried in civilian courts rather than military tribunals. The court issued a unanimous ruling ordering that military officers and personnel be tried in civilian courts [LAT report] when accused of torture, extrajudicial killing and other human rights abuses. Prior to the ruling they had been tried in military tribunals, which have received criticism for failing to try and convict military personnel for alleged crimes and abuses. Many of the problems of alleged military abuse stem from President Felipe Calderon's use of the military to combat drug cartels. Still, the ruling stops short of forcing all cases out of the military court system [AP report], and it remains unclear when the civilian courts will begin hearing military cases.

The Mexican military has come under criticism from rights groups for failing to hold its members accountable for alleged human rights abuses. In 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] published a report saying the use of the military to fight drug cartels has resulted in human rights violations [JURIST report] by soldiers, including killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions. The report states that these abuses have gone unpunished, with no convictions resulting from any investigations. The report underscores the importance of holding human rights violators accountable saying, "such horrific abuses directly undermine the goal of stopping drug-related violence and improving public security. The army is currently deployed in the areas of the country most torn by drug-related violence. It would be in the military's best interest to act and be seen to act in a manner that is professional and respectful of civilians and human rights."

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