PBI would like to congratulate the work done by Mexican human rights defenders and activists that fought and campaigned over decades to make this momentous decision possible.

Over several days in July 2011, the Mexican Supreme Court reviewed the 2009 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling on the case of Rosendo Radilla, who was forcibly disappeared by the military in 1974. The review was carried out in light of a recently promulgated reform of the Mexican Constitution, which puts international human rights standards on a par with the Constitution and above secondary law.

Between 2009 and 2010, the Inter-American Court issued four rulings on cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the Mexican military on civilians, those of Rosendo Radilla, Valentina Rosendo Cantu, Ines Fernandez Ortega and Teodoro Montiel- Rodolfo Cabrera. In all rulings, the Inter-American Court ordered Mexico to proceed with proper investigations and trials of those responsible in the civilian justice system and to reform internal legislation to restrict the use of military tribunals.

On 5 July 2011 Mexico’s Supreme Court  confirmed that the Mexican justice system was obliged to comply with Inter-American Court rulings. On 12 July, it went to the core of the issue, establishing that members of the military accused of human rights violations should be tried in civilian courts. This resolution sets a precedent for future decisions of judicial authorities throughout the country on key human rights issues, including the legally binding character of sentences rendered by the Inter-American Court, the need for sentences of the Mexican judicial branch to conform to the Constitution and international treaties’ provisions related to human rights, and the prohibition on the use of military jurisdiction in cases involving human rights violations against civilians. 

Specifically, the Supreme Court decided the following:

1) Mexico’s judges are required to exercise “conventionality control” – that is, conform their decisions to inter-American human rights treaties – under article 1 of the Mexican Constitution, reformed last June 10th;

2) The decisions of the Inter-American Court are binding for Mexico, in general, and for the federal judicial branch, in particular, when Mexico is party in a case;

3) All judges in the country should rule that the military justice system does not have jurisdiction to investigate or try cases of military human rights abuses; military jurisdiction should be restricted to what is stated in the Constitution, that is, violations of military discipline, not human rights violations;

4) The Supreme Court will have jurisdiction over cases of alleged conflict between civil and military jurisdiction arising from human rights violations committed by the military. That is to say, the Supreme Court, acting as constitutional tribunal, will declare the unconstitutionality of article 57 of the Military Code of Justice as long as Congress does not reform this article,

PBI has accompanied Tita Radilla, daughter of Rosendo Radilla and Vice President of the Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos y Víctimas de Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos en México  (AFADEM) since August 2003. Tita Radilla has played a leading role in insisting that her father’s case and others where members of the military are accused of Human Rights violations should be heard by civilian courts.

PBI has also accompanied Ines Fernandez and Valentina Rosendo Cantu, who were raped by members of the military in 2002. With the help of the Organization of the Me’phaa People (OPIM) and Tlachinollan Human  Rights Centre, these two women carried on their struggle for justice for many years. They are both deeply conscious that many other men and women, especially from indigenous and poor backgrounds, have suffered violence and abuses at the hands of the military and that their struggle would bring justice for their communities.