Jan 24, 2012

Human Rights Violations: The Army adheres to the law in the fight against crime: military prosecutor responds to HRW

La Jornada: "The Army's commitment to strictly adhere to the law in the war on drugs has cost soldiers and the institution itself, as more than 100 soldiers have been "disappeared or seized" after appearing in federal or local courts to testify regarding their intervention in matters which resulted in criminal proceedings in civil matters, according to the military prosecutor, Gen. Jesus Gabriel López Benítez.

After rejecting categorically the contents of the report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which states that there is impunity for soldiers who violate human rights, General López Benítez said yesterday in an interview with La Jornada that the situation is so delicate that he has requested the Judiciary of the Federation to allow military personnel involved in criminal proceedings--because of their being involved in shootings, arrests and searches involving organized crime--to appear via video conference or to testify before judges in their own locality.

He revealed that soldiers who took part in high-impact operations, such as in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua, ... are cited then to appear as witnesses after they returned to their headquarters in other states. Months later, when trials are underway, federal judges subpoena them and the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), in accordance with the law, sends the soldiers to their court appearance.

However, he said, is that the vast majority of the 123 soldiers "disappeared or seized" so far in this administration, never returned home after testifying or afer they had left their barracks. There is evidence that when the soldiers were heading to the bus station, after having testified, they were loaded onto trucks by armed men and, after that, nothing was heard of them. Organized crime solicits the appearance of soldiers who served in operations against organized crime and make them appear for revenge. That would not happen if soldiers acted with impunity, he said.

After disqualifying the latest HRW report, the military regretted that for the preparation of that document the organization did not take into account even the data that the Department of Defense publishes at its website.

The prosecutor also said that in every incident involving civilians, two criminal investigations are immediately opened, one by the Military Office, and one by the local attorney General's Office, as appropriate. Once the process is moving forward, the military judge decides whether to decline jurisdiction, but that does not mean impunity.

The officer reiterated the military's interest in demonstrating its commitment to legality and respect for human rights." Spanish original

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