By Chris Covert
A Mexican Army colonel's fate awaiting a decision by the Mexican Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion (SCJN) or Mexican Supreme Court, will have to wait longer, according to Mexican news accounts.
An article from a news dispatch which appeared in El Imparcial news daily Monday afternoon, said that the court had discussed, sometimes in heated fashion whether the case of Colonel Jose Guadalupe Arias Agredano should be tried in a civilian court for a murder he allegedly covered up, or if the Mexican military should have jurisdiction.
In April, 2012, an unidentified federal judge ordered annulled the military arrest warrant of Colonel Arias Agredano, the decision of which was appealed and was brought before the SCJN. Colonel Arias Agredano has asked the court to reverse the decision saying he is in physical danger should he be ordered to a civilian prison.
Charges against Colonel Arias Agredano come from the arrest of Jethro Ramses Sanchez Santana who was detained by Veracruz municipal police agents on May 25th, 2011 in Veracruz state along with Horacio Cervantes Demessa, for the murder of Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega earlier that March.
Sicilia Ortega was the son of Javier Sicilia, leader of the Mexican Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity. Sicilia Ortega was kidnapped and then later found strangled and stuffed into a vehicle along with seven other victims. His murder sparked Javier Sicilia's formation of his peace movement, and several high profile protest demonstrations that spring and beyond.
Colonel Arias Agredano's alleged role in the murder of Sanchez Santana included his attempts to cover up the death of the detainee after he had choked to death on his own vomit during an interrogation. Sanchez Santana was later found dead on August 11th in Atlixco, Puebla. Cervantes Demessa was later found in Coatetelco colony in Miacatlan municipality badly beaten.
Alleged in the incident was that Sanchez Santana had been beaten by two junior army officers during the interrogation. Those officers have been identified as lieutenants Jose Guadalupe Orizaga y Guerra and Edwin Raziel Aguilar Guerrero. Both lieutenants Orizaga y Guerra and Aguilar Guerrero were also identified as the military officers who took custody of Cervantes Demessa and Sanchez Santana from the Policia Federal detachment which originally detained the two suspects. The detainees were later taken to a blacksmith shop located near the facilities of the Mexican 21st Infantry Battalion in Morelos state where they were beaten.
Both officers were arrested July 4th and confessed to the murder of Sanchez Santana.
The legal issues being discussed Monday concern a July, 2011 SCJN decision that said human right cases involving military personnel must be tried in civilian courts. The decision temporarily threw the Mexican military into an uproar. Senior military officials, although protesting the decision later said that they would abide by the decision.
The decision came from a forced disappearance case of Radilla Pacheco, who was allegedly detained by a Mexican Army unit at a checkpoint in Guerrero state on August 25th, 1974, and was never seen again. Radilla Pacheco's disappearance took place in the depths of Mexico's Dirty War between 1968 and 1982, when a succession of Mexican presidents used their military to deal harshly with radical and radical political movements, mostly in Guerrero state and central Mexico.
The Radilla Pacheco case had made it as far as the Inter American Court on Human Rights which ordered Mexico to investigate the case using civilian not military prosecutors. A court case sent to the SCJN determined that all human rights cases involving Mexican military personnel must be prosecuted in civilian courts.
According to statistics provided by Mexican human rights groups about 1,500 cases of forced disappearances during the Dirty War can potentially be investigated by civilian courts. But little news has emerged that any of those cases will be investigated under the new order. Two high profile rape cases of two indigenous women that took place in 2002, were transferred from military to civilian courts last year in the wake of that decision, but it is unlikely either of those cases will ever see any criminal resolution.
|Justice Juan Silva Meza|
When the July, 2011 decision was announced, the president of the SCJN, Juan Silva Meza walked back the decision the next day, saying that Mexican federal judges would have complete discretion as to whether a case involving Mexican military personnel would be prosecuted in civilian or military courts.
According to the El Imparcial article, even that decision does not appear to as rigorously observed even by the very court which announced it. One of the likely reasons why is that Mexican deputies have been pushing to reform the Mexican code of military justice Article 57, separating all but murder from the list of offenses which military prosecutors are required to prosecute.
Mexican president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa and his Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), the controlling agency for the Mexican Army, General Guillermo Galvan Galvan also have been urging deputies to reform Article 57.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com