Last week the Mexican Congress ruled that members of the military who have committed human rights abuses against civilians will now stand trial in civilian court. This landmark decision represents a significant step forward for civilians seeking justice for military abuse.
The revision to the military code of justice comes as a result of Mexico’s compliance with the Inter American Court of Human Rights’ decision in the case of Valentina Rosendo Cantù and Ines Fernandez Ortega. In February 2002 members of the Mexican army raped and beat Ines and Valentina. After years of seeking justice within Mexico, their case was finally heard by the IACHR in 2010. The IACHR ordered Mexico to perform a full civilian investigation of the case and reform the military justice system. In January 2014 a Mexican court issued indictments against four former military officers accused of rape, torture and abuse of power.
Previously, cases of military abuse against civilians were heard in military court—a judicial system strongly biased in favour of military officials. The military court largely held their trial proceedings in secret and rarely convicted members of the military for their crimes. Human rights organizations are hopeful that this reform will help end impunity and bring justice to survivors of military violence in Mexico.