Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Military Pushback

So it's not a huge surprise, but the military is not thrilled about the Supreme Court decision:
The past week, the Supreme Court decided that military personnel will be judged in civilian courts --and not military ones-- in cases of the violation of human rights of civilians. This decision caused indignation and worry on the part of the armed forces, functionaries from the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) and the Marine Navy of Mexico (Semar) confirmed.

Without regulation to operate on the streets, the armed forces have considered modifying their mode of operation. In the case of Semar, they are considering the likelihood of pulling their troops back from the portions of Tamaulipas, Guerrero, and Coahuila that don't have coasts.

"As long as we don't have something that protects us we can't continue to attend to citizen complains," one Mexican army general assured Excélsior.
I think these arguments are pretty weak (and not just because Coahuila doesn't have any coasts, but that's true, too). If the armed forces had shown itself willing to punish its own consistently, this would be a non-issue. Furthermore, much of the support for the status quo glosses over the fact that soldiers have indeed raped witnesses and shot innocents, even if the number of abusers is relatively small. The general who says that the army has nothing that protects them ignores the fact that not abusing the human rights of civilians will pretty much solve the whole problem. (Of course there may be a smattering of cases of criminals using the law to embarrass the armed forces, but that eventuality can be dealt with as necessary.) Lastly, from the standpoint of naked self-interest, submitting itself to stricter scrutiny will make the military more effective. The abuses of human rights outlined in Uniformed Impunity were rank breakdowns in professionalism. Less professional units aren't just prone to abuse; they are also more prone to desertion and corruption, and are less effective at their core function, i.e. identifying and punishing actual bad guys.

As far as whether they will limit their activity from now on, I don't have any intimate insight into the Mexican military mindset, so this is all just speculation, but it seems unlikely that they would ultimately be willing to throw away all the influence they've earned in the Calderón era just because of a fit of pique regarding the way civilian abuses are handled.

I do, however, think this line from Ana Paula Ordorica is worth pondering:
But with the taint of crimes that remain unpunished in our country's civilian tribunals, I don't understand why the Supreme Court opted to restrict article 57 of the Code of Military Justice [and subject soldiers to civilian trials].

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