HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Report Cites Abuses by Mexican Military
Pubdate: Sat, 12 Jul 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A07
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign Service
Bookmark: (Mexico)


Rights Panel Describes Torture, Killings in Anti-Drug Effort

MEXICO CITY -- The National Human Rights Commission on Friday accused 
the Mexican military of wrongfully killing eight civilians at 
roadblocks, torturing witnesses and allowing soldiers accused of 
rights violations to escape prosecution during its continuing 
campaign against drug cartels.

In a lengthy report, commission investigators documented a case of 
soldiers jamming splinters beneath the fingernails and toenails of a 
witness and forcibly injecting alcohol down his throat. The man had 
been mistaken for a drug dealer operating in the hills near the 
border south of Phoenix, the report said.

In another case, soldiers stormed a house in the western village of 
Uruapan and allegedly tortured two suspects by stabbing their 
genitals with electric cattle prods. Other suspects were held at 
military facilities, forced to undress and barred from communicating 
with lawyers or family.

Most of the abuses have gone unpunished, the report said. For 
instance, no action has been taken against soldiers suspected of 
shooting dead four civilians at a roadblock in the central state of 
Sinaloa, the report said.

The commission's report held the military's top brass to be as 
responsible for the violations as the low- and mid-ranking soldiers 
accused of committing the actual offenses. In some instances, 
civilian law enforcement authorities have been impeded because the 
military delayed the release of information, the report said.

"We need armed forces that do not tolerate some of their members 
violating fundamental rights without consequences," Jose Luis 
Soberanes, president of the commission, said Friday.

The military, which has generally defended its rights record, did not 
immediately respond to the report.

Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has 
dispatched more than 30,000 solders and federal police officers to 
fight drug cartels. The military-style operations are credited, in 
large part, for the arrests of more than 26,000 drug suspects and the 
seizure of 1.6 million rounds of ammunition from cartels, according 
to the government.

But Mexican and international human rights groups have repeatedly 
called for the withdrawal of the military, which they say is poorly 
prepared for policing. More than 980 rights complaints -- 75 percent 
of which are connected to the anti-narcotics operations -- have been 
filed against the military since Calderon took office.

Soberanes, who once called for the military "to return to its 
barracks," now says that the temporary use of soldiers is necessary 
to contain the growing power of drug cartels, which are blamed for 
more than 2,000 killings this year. On Friday, Soberanes reiterated 
his view that soldiers have a place in the fight but called on 
Calderon to set a date for their withdrawal.

Many Mexican governors have applauded the president for dispatching 
the military and have urged him to send more troops. But the troops 
have not stemmed the violence. On Friday, officials in Culiacan, 
capital of Sinaloa, said this year's death toll of police and other 
public officials had reached 62, after two police officers were 
killed Thursday in a daylight shootout that left 10 other people dead. 
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