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Mexico high court rules military crimes should be tried in civilian courts

The Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] ruled Tuesday that crimes committed against Mexican civilians by members of the military should be tried in civilian courts rather than military tribunals. Military tribunals have been criticized in the past for failing to try and convict military personnel for alleged crimes and abuses. In its decision the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Military Code of Justice that provided that all crimes committed by on-duty soldiers should be tried in military tribunals. The court's decision centered around the death of a civilian who was killed when soldiers opened fire on a civilian bus. The court determined that the trial of soldiers in his death should be held in civilian court. The decision of the court will not be legally binding precedent [El Universal report, in Spanish] until the court rules in several other cases. The court already issued a similar ruling last month, and another last July [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing 28 additional cases involving the military.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] highlighted the importance [press release] of the Supreme Court's upcoming decisions in military cases earlier this month. HRW criticized military tribunals for being inadequate venues to try soldiers that abuse and kill civilians. The rights group noted that between 2007 and 2012 5,000 human rights investigations were opened, but only 38 military personnel were convicted. A report issued by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego (TBI) [official website] in July alleged that complaints about violations committed by Mexico's military forces [JURIST report] have been on the rise.

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