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  HOME | Mexico

ICC Won’t Take Up Case of Mexico’s Drug War

MEXICO CITY – The International Criminal Court will not hear a complaint that human rights activists filed against Mexican President Felipe Calderon for a drug-war strategy the would-be plaintiffs say has resulted in more than 50,000 deaths, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor said.

Luis Moreno Ocampo made the remarks in a talk at the Federal Judicial Institute in Mexico City, where he was joined by Spanish jurists Baltasar Garzon and Dolores Delgado Garcia.

“To open a case there would have to be war crimes or crimes against humanity,” he said, adding that to prove the existence of such atrocities complainants must show that a person or group ordered a massive or systematic attack on the civilian population.

“We don’t judge political decisions or political responsibility,” he said when asked whether the ICC would take up the case.

Ocampo added it is up to individual nations to investigate war crimes and other serious rights violations and that the ICC will only act when they are unable or unwilling to do so.

A group of activists, scholars and intellectuals announced last month that they would seek to have Calderon tried before The Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal for crimes against humanity.

They also called for charges against Mexico’s No. 1 drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, and other kingpins, as well as against military brass and Cabinet members.

“Mexico is in a state of emergency and experiencing the most dramatic humanitarian crisis of its recent history, with already more than 50,000 dead, 230,000 displaced, 10,000 missing and 1,300 children and adolescents slain,” the would-be plaintiffs said.

They said the carnage was sparked by Calderon’s decision – within days of taking office in December 2006 – to launch “a war” against drug trafficking.

While those listed in the complaint “could allege they haven’t committed any murder directly or ordered serious crimes ... they are responsible for ... protecting the cartel hit men, police and soldiers who directly commit them,” attorney Netzai Sandoval Ballesteros said.

Regarding the inclusion of Sinaloa cartel boss Guzman in the complaint, Sandoval said that “Chapo” and other kingpins have committed war crimes and recruited children into their ranks as gunmen.

He also pointed out that Mexico’s Supreme Court has ignored pleas to investigate serious human rights violations stemming from Calderon’s drug war.

The Mexican government blasted the bid to have the ICC investigate Calderon.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it “categorically rejects” the notion that Calderon’s “security policy might constitute an international crime,” arguing that if the government “had not acted with the forcefulness it has shown ... many families in different communities in the country would be at the mercy of the criminals.”

Calderon’s decision to deploy federal forces, including tens of thousands of soldiers, to drug-war flashpoints to replace notoriously corrupt and underpaid local law enforcement has come under fire from local and international human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch, for example, said earlier this year that Mexico’s independent National Human Rights Commission had received nearly 5,000 allegations of human rights violations by the military, including killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and rape dating back to 2007. EFE

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