Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2017
On August 21, 2012, the Mexican Supreme Court declared unconstitutional Article 57 of the Mexican Code of Military Justice (CMJ) and in doing so complied with several judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court). From the point of view of Mexican law, the Supreme Court’s decision means that civilians who have suffered from the unconstitutional expansion of military jurisdiction in Mexico are, for the first time, protected by the federal judiciary. More significant from the perspective of international law, the decision to bring Mexican law into compliance with the judgments of the I/A Court reflects growing acceptance of that Court’s judgments, and international human rights law, by the states parties to the American Convention on Human Rights (American Convention), as well as the general decline of military jurisdiction and impunity in the region.
1 Inconstitucionalidad del artéculo 57, fracción Ii, inciso a) del Código de Justicia Militar y legitimación del ofen dido y sus familiares para promover amparo [Unconstitutionality of Article 57, Section II, Paragraph a) of the Code of Military Justice and Legitimation of the Injured Party and His Family to Present an Appeal for the Protection of Constitutional Rights], Amparo Review No. 133/2012 (Sup. Ct. Mex. [SCJN] 21 de agosto de 2012) [hereinafter Supreme Court Review 133/2012], at http://www2.scjn.gob.mx/AsuntosRelevantes/pagina/SeguimientoAsuntosRelevantesPub.aspx?Id=136182&SeguimientoId=478.
2 American Convention on Human Rights, Nov. 22, 1969, Oasts No. B-32, 1144 UNTS 123. At present, twenty-four member states of the Organization of American States are parties to the Convention, although on Sep tember 6, 2012, Venezuela presented its instrument of denunciation, which, under Article 78(1) of the Convention, will take effect in one year.
3 Article 13 of the Constitution provides that there shall be no special courts and that military jurisdiction may not be extended to civilians. Constitución Polética de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos [C.P.], as amended, Diario Oficial de la Federación [Do], 5 de febrero de 1917, Art. 13, available at http://www.oas.org/juridico/mla/en/mex/en_mex-int-text-const.pdf.
4 Article 57 of the Mexican CMJ defines “crimes against military discipline” to include “those... committed by soldiers during times of duty or based on the actions of the same.” Código de Justicia Militar [CJM], Art. 57(II)a), DO, 31 de agosto de 1933, available at http://www.diputados.gob.mx/LeyesBiblio/pdf/4.pdf. Translations from the Spanish are by the author unless otherwise noted.
5 See, e.g., Amonacid Arellano v. Chile, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 154, para. 131 & n.154 (Sept. 26, 2006) (“The Court has established that in a democratic State, the military criminal jurisdiction must have a restrictive scope and must be exceptional and aimed at the protection of special legal interests related to the functions that the law assigns to the Military. Therefore, it must only try military men for the commission of crimes or offenses that due to their nature may affect military interests. in that respect, the Court has held that ‘when the military courts assume jurisdiction over a matter that should be heard by the regular courts, the right to the competent judge is violated, as is, a fortiori, due process of law, which, in turn, is closely linked to the right of access to justice.’”) (footnote omitted) (quoting Herrera Ulloa v. Costa Rica, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Inter-Am Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 107, para. 169 (July 2, 2004)). Judgments of the Inter-American Court cited and quoted herein are available online at http://www.corteidh.or.cr and the English versions are those of the Court.
6 See Radilla Pacheco v. Mexico, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 209, paras. 314, 392(5) (Nov. 23, 2009).
7 Id., para. 260.
8 Id., para. 271.
9 Id., para. 264.
10 Id., para. 1 & n.3.
11 Id., para. 392(5).
12 Id., para. 313.
13 Id., para. 392(10).
14 Agreement Ordering the Publication of Paragraphs 1–7, 52–66, and 114–358 of the Judgment of November 23, 2009, by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in Case No. 12. 511, Rosendo Radilla Pacheco v. Mexico, DO, Feb. 9, 2010, available at http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5131043&fecha=09/02/2010 (in Spanish).
15 This resolution has been superseded. See note 24 infra.
16 SCJIN, Caso Rosendo Radilla Pacheco [the decision], Varios No. 912/2010, el 14 de julio de 2011, at http://www2.scjn.gob.mx/AsuntosRelevantes/pagina/SeguimientoAsuntosRelevantesPub.aspx?Id=121589&SeguimientoId=225.
17 SCJN, Expediente [the file] Varios 912/2010, paras. 10–11, el 14 de julio de 2011, at http://www2.scjn. gob.mx/ConsultaTematica/PaginasPub/DetallePub.aspx?AsuntoId=121589 (follow “Engrose” [Enlargement] hyperlink).
18 Id., paras. 14–15.
19 Id., paras. 16–17.
20 Id., para. 18.
21 Id., para. 19.
22 Id., para. 20.
23 Id., paras. 22– 45.
24 Inexplicably, however, Mexico has still not complied with the Radilla Pacheco judgment. On June 28, 2012, the I/A Court issued its third resolution on compliance in this case. Radilla Pacheco v. Mexico, Monitoring Com pliance with Judgment, Order of the Court (Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. June 28, 2012), at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/supervision.cfm.
25 An “amparo” lawsuit is a legal action in “protection” of one’s constitutional rights. The party filing the suit must demonstrate that a governmental authority caused the injury and that the injury is not irreparable. Also, an amparo, inter alia, may contest the constitutionality of federal or state legislation.
26 Given the importance of amparo decision No. 818/2011, the Council of the Federal Judiciary issued Information Note 48/2011. Consejo de la Judicatura, Nota Informativa (Caso: Violación derechos humanos y fuero militar), el 13 de diciembre de 2011, at http://www.cjf.gob.mx/documentos/notasInformativas/docsNotas Informativas/2011/notaInformativa48.pdf.
27 Radilla-Pacheco, supra note 6; Fernaández Ortega v. Mexico, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 215 (Aug. 30, 2010); Rosendo Cantuú v. Mexico, Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 216 (Aug. 31, 2010); Cabrera Garcéa v. Mexico, Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 220 (Nov. 26, 2010).
28 Supreme Court Review 133/2012, dispositif, item 4.
29 Argentina, for example, in November 2007 abolished military jurisdiction (except for disciplinary offenses) and its Code of Military Justice, as a result of a friendly settlement with the I/A Commission in the Correa Belisle and Arguelles cases. See Rodolfo Luis Correa Belisle, Friendly Settlement, Report No. 15/10, 2010 Rep. Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R. (Mar. 16, 2010), at http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/decisions/friendly.asp; see also Press Release No. 36/08, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R., IACHR Praises Repeal of Argentina’s Military Justice Code (Aug. 12, 2008).
30 See Daniel Joloy, Los alcances de la justicia militar en México: la impunidad continú a, Huffpostvoces[blog], Sept. 11, 2012, at http://voces.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-joloy/los-alcances-de-la-justicia-militar-en-mexico_ b_1871480.html.
32 Fernánckz Ortega, supra note 27; Rosendo Cantú, supra note 27.
33 Cabrera Garcéa, supra note 27.
34 Id., paras. 197–98.
35 Id., para. 225 & n.306 (footnote omitted) (citing RadilkPacheco, supra note 6, para. 275; Rosendo Cantú, supra note 27, para. 160).
36 Id., paras. 226–32.
37 Concurring Opinion of Judge ad hoc Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot, para. 88, in id.
38 Almonacid Arellano v. Chile, supra note 5, para. 124.
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