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Mexico: Senate Committees Approve Reform of Military Trial Jurisdiction

(May 10, 2012) It was reported on April 20, 2012, that the key Senate committees of Mexico's national legislature, the Congress of the Union, have approved amendments to the law on military trial jurisdiction. Members of the Committees of Justice, Interior, and Legislative Studies were expected to present their opinions on the proposed legislation to the plenum on April 22, for the first reading. (Elena Michel, Avanza Fuero Militar en Senado, EL UNIVERSAL (Apr. 20, 2012).)

The amendment of article 58 of the Code of Military Justice clearly establishes that the federal authorities and civilian courts will have jurisdiction over cases involving human rights violations and crimes committed by members of the Armed Forces against civilians, including crimes that would otherwise be under local court jurisdiction. However, the sentences handed down to convicted perpetrators will be served in a military prison. The reform of military jurisdiction includes for the first time the right of victims of military abuses, as well as their families and relatives, to challenge the jurisdiction of a court and to appeal to the Supreme Court of the Nation for remedy. (Id.)

The draft document specifies that federal criminal judges and circuit unit magistrates (magistrados unitarios de circuito) who hear cases of crimes committed by the military against civilians must be aware of the legal framework and disciplinary regime of the armed forces. (Id.)

The document also proposes the creation of a Ministerial Military Police force, consisting of personnel designated by the Secretary of National Defense or the Navy, to be responsible for the investigation of military offenses. It would be under the direction and control of the Public Prosecutor's Office. The proposed new military body would be responsible for ensuring that evidence and instruments of crimes are retained and that scenes of crime are preserved and for rendering assistance to the victims and protecting witnesses to the crime, even if the Party of the Democrat Revolution disagrees with decisions concerning the abovementioned matters. (Id.)

The committees' opinion makes it clear that the statute of limitations will not run out for the crimes of genocide and forced disappearance of persons, as had been proposed by President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa in an initiative he had sent to the Congress of the Union in 2010. (Id.)