MEXICO CITY – The Mexican government defended its commitment to human rights Wednesday after a study found that nearly all cases of alleged abuses against civilians by soldiers fighting the war on drug gangs go unsolved and unpunished.
A government statement said the Attorney General’s Office is working toward “structural and institutional changes to put an end to impunity and pursue human rights violations” through the creation of special investigative units.
It added that prosecutors have already put in motion changes that emerged from a February executive report and that address several recommendations in the study released Tuesday by the Washington Office on Latin America.
The government said the military has broadened human rights training for soldiers, resulting in a reduction of complaints to the National Human Rights Commission, and it values the military’s assistance in cracking down on violent cartels across the country.
“The participation of the Armed Forces of Mexico in attention to organized crime forms part of the work of temporary accompaniment to local authorities and responds to the enormous challenges posed by the international trafficking of arms and drugs, which particularly affects our country,” it said.
The military has played a central role in the war on drug cartels since at least late 2006, when then-President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers across the country to fight the gangs. The militarized offensive has continued under current President Enrique Pena Nieto.
During that time there have been numerous accusations of serious human rights violations by soldiers, such as torture, killings and forced disappearances.
Critics say the military is not trained to carry out policing activities. However, many police departments in the country are seen as corrupt, outgunned and even in cahoots with organized crime gangs, and thus unreliable allies against the cartels.
The Washington Office on Latin America study found that despite a reform allowing civilian prosecutions of soldiers for rights abuses, there were just 16 such convictions out of 505 criminal investigations from 2012 through 2016, a prosecutorial success rate of 3.2 percent.
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