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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mexico Supreme Court allows military personnel to be tried in a civilian court


Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat

MEXICO, D.F. (apro). 8-20-2012.  Mexico's Supreme Court (SCJN: Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion), ruled that the surviving relatives of Bonfilio Rubio Villegas, executed in 2009 at a military road block in Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero, are entitled (have standing) to bring a writ/suit of amparo to prevent the soldier who was responsible for the death of their family member from being tried in a military court. In addition, the ministers (justices) held that the relatives of the (deceased) Nahua native should be recognized as contributing parties in the criminal proceeding that has been initiated against infantryman Valentin Alejo Hilario, accused of negligent homicide.

During the discussion about the amparos and the limits of military jurisdiction, the justices voted in favor of the ruling proposed by (Minister) Olga Sanchez Cordero, which recognizes the legitimacy of the surviving family members. Her position was adopted by (Ministers) Arturo Zaldivar, Jorge Prado, Juan N. Silva Meza, Jose Ramon Cossio and Sergio Valls, who pointed out that the rights of the claimants must be recognized so that the the proceeding can be heard by a civilian (non-military) court.

Ministers Guillermo I. Ortiz Mayagoitia, Sergio Aguirre Anguiano and Margarita Luna Ramos voted against (that argument), because they believed that the relatives of Bonfilio Rubio Villegas did not have the right to challenge the competency of the Sixth Military Judge, who granted a formal order of imprisonment against Valentin Alejo Hilario on charges of negligent homicide.

With their vote, the ministers rejected the arguments presented by the President of the Republic, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, who had pointed out that the surviving family members did not have the right (to challenge competency) because "there was no concrete judicial proceeding against this," and because the claimants did not certify that they had a judicial interest.

They considered that it was sufficient to apply recently reformed Article I of the Constitution, which expanded protection of human rights, and the sentence issued by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights (CIDH: Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos) in the Rosendo Radilla case -- which held that military jurisdiction does not apply when there's a crime committed against civilians or when the matter has nothing to do with military discipline--  to grant the claimants the amparo. 

According to Zaldivar, the CIDH has stated that crime victims and their families must be considered victims and should be allowed to participate in the proceedings."It is not only Mexican government's constitutional and international duty (to recognize this right), but also its ethical (duty)," he declared.

However, Aguirre Anguiano points out that this does not mean that any relative has this right, they have to be the lawful successors of the victim.

"Talking about relatives and family members is very sensitive. If they are going to substitute for the victim that is no longer present (who already died), at least they should be legitimate successors," he insisted.

In the session, which lasted about one hour, Luna Ramos held that her vote against the proposed ruling is because the 2008 Constitutional Amendment, which recognizes the right of the victims' surviving family to file for an amparo and challenge not just the damages, but also any action taken in the criminal proceeding or during the criminal investigation, has not become effective yet, and is therefore not applicable here.


  1. ok...I am confused, it was a condition that obama made to release additional meridia funds due to the growing military abuses, so it was supposedly mandatory. The only thing they rejected was having it mandatory was to have it in "open" court or closed military style. Obama wanted it opened and Calderon said in effect "let us decide" yeah right..


  2. " but also any action taken in the criminal proceeding or during the criminal investigation, has not become effective yet, and is therefore not applicable here."

    Well why ever not?

    So, why didn't the family wait until a time when it will maybe "actions taken in the criminal investigation become effective and applicable" or is that the applicable loopole rendering this process just nonsense because it never will be viable? Their abogados must have told them that. Will they be able to bring action later when all the functioning parts are functioning together.

  3. Generally speaking, most Americans are not happy with the decisions that Obama makes. This sounds like one of his better ones however.


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