The Mexican Supreme Corte de Justicia de la Nacion (SCJN) or Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that soldiers under going prosecution for drug crimes should by tried in military courts, according to Mexican news accounts.
According to a news item posted on the website of Milenio news daily Wednesday afternoon, in the narrow six to five vote, justices said that infantry lieutenant Martin Rueda Ovando need not appear before a civilian court for his crimes, since no civilians were involved in the alleged crimes by the soldier.
Lieutenant Rueda Ovando is said to have been under orders by an unidentified superior officer to destroy marijuana plantation near a military checkpoint in Guachochi municipality far western Chihuahua state April, 2010. The soldier had been charged with dereliction of duty and crimes against health.
The ruling by the SCJN is the first ruling which constricts the roles of civilian courts, since last year in Mexico's ongoing drug war, where Mexico's popular military is involved. However, as matters stand now, since the standard of civilian involvement was imposed last year in cases with civilian victims of the military, the ruling seems to solidify and further clarify the July 2011 ruling.
That July 2011 ruling by the SCJN said that criminal cases against military where civilian victims has involved must be set for investigation and trial in civilian courts. The effect of that ruling has been to consider all cases where a civilian had been harmed at the hands of the military to be human rights cases.
The case of infantry Lieutenant Rueda Ovando was a clear departure from human rights cases since no civilians were victimized by actions of the military.
The ruling was so narrow because, according to the article the defendant simply failed to fully carry out the order, and did not move the product for sale or committed any other act common to crimes against health.
According to an article which appeared in Informador news daily Wednesday, for example, on the same day, the SCJN ruled nine to two that military police Carlos Fidel Flores Abrego and five other soldiers should be tried before a civilian judge in a 2011 murder case.
In 2011, Dr. Jorge Otilio Cantu was shot to death by elements of a Mexican Army road patrol in Nuevo Leon state. In that case, Flores Abrego had been accused of planting a weapon at the scene following the shooting, to make it appear Dr. Otilio Cantu had fired on the soldiers, prompting army return fire.
|SCJN Associate Justice Margarita Luna Ramos|
|SCJN Associate Justice Salvador Aguirre Anguiano|
Mexico's court system has been slow in implementing the new standard. A Jucio de amparo filed two weeks ago which appeared before the SCJN was denied by the court because two forced disappearance victims, Jose Luis Guzman Zuniga, 29, and Carlos Guzman Zuniga 28, were involved. In that case, 22 soldiers allegedly involved in the disappearance were ordered to trial in a Mexican federal court.
Jucio de amparo lawsuits are common procedural appear meant to preserve the rights of defendants as well as victims in criminal cases.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com