By Chris Covert
The Mexican Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion (SCJN) or Supreme Court ordered 22 soldiers to trial in civilian court over the detention and disappearance of two men in Ciudad Juarez in 2008, according to Mexican news accounts.
A news report posted on the website of Animal Politico political news website Monday evening said that an amparo appeal filed by the 22 defendants was overturned, and the court ordered the military judge in the proceedings to stop the proceedings and turn the case over to a federal judge.
Up until a year ago, military prosecutors nationwide conducted the investigation and prosecution of all Mexican military involved in crimes against civilians, even if those crimes were committed as a part of a military operation. Amparo suits intended to move those cases to civilian courts, which are procedural appeals instituted to assure the rights of defendants, were usually denied by civilian courts in favor of military prosecutors, until the SCJN declared last year that all human rights cases stemming from crimes committed by the military must be prosecuted in civilian courts.
|SCJN Justice Juan Silva Meza|
The case involves the detention in November 2008 of two brothers who were arrested by a force of between 40 and 50 soldiers in Ciudad Juarez, and then disappeared.
According to a column by Raymundo Riva Palacio posted in 2009 on the website of Zocalo.com.mx, witnesses had seen soldiers remove the two men from their home and were taken away in military vehicles.
A year after the detention, the Mexican Army and security officials in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state and even the federal government denied knowing the whereabouts of the two men.
The raid was a joint operation carried out by Mexican Army and Policia Federal, which provided perimeter security for the raid, took the detainees to the headquarters of the Mexican 22nd Motorized Cavalry regiment. One of the detainees, Jose Luis Guzman Zuniga, 29, was arrested for extortion while the other, Carlos Guzmán Zúniga 28, was arrested for possession of cocaine.
The Mexican Procuraduria General de Republica (PGR) or Mexican attorney general denied having been involved in the detention subsequent to the arrests.
According to the Animal Politico story, the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), the controlling agency for the Mexican Army, had investigated the involvement of four of the soldiers involved in the arrests, but had to date not made any case or arrests against them.
According to current law even though a Mexican federal judge can continue the prosecution, that judge still has the power to dismiss the case outright.
The disappearance case also directly impacts the Mexican Constitution, Article 19, which permits federal courts to assert jurisdiction in cases even though a case may have been a local matter, regardless whether federal security forces were involved in the original arrests.
The SCJN ruling last year which requires human right cases to only be tried in civilian courts, relies heavily on Article 19 which allows federal courts to take jurisdiction in cases even with a jurisdiction issue that would allow the case to proceed in a local or state court.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com