Roberto Ochoa joins JiC for this blog post on the potential preliminary examination of the situation in Mexico by the International Criminal Court. Roberto is a Mexican lawyer and political philosopher who has been working for more than 10 years with victims of the war on drugs in his country.
Since 2012, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in collaboration with Mexican organisations has repeatedly sent communications to de Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking them to open a preliminary examination into the situation in Mexico. A preliminary examination is the phase conducted by the ICC prior to deciding whether to open an official investigation. Mexico is a party to the Rome Statute since 2006. The only publicly available official response provided by the OTP to date shows that no material analysis has been undertaken. The OTP has expressed, in summary, that the gross human rights violations in the country cannot be legally considered as crimes against humanity because they are the result of a broader context with different elements, such as the structural weakness of the administration of justice, a high level of impunity, and increases in organized crime. The costs of looking away from this crisis are growing every day and there is the risk of the situation becoming unmanageable very soon.
For decades, academics and observers have insisted quite rightly that Mexico must stop merely being the United States of America’s backyard, the place where what is not wanted is hidden or cast aside. In 1994, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, transforming the region into the largest and most active economic zone in the world. However, unlike with the European Union, the possibility of a more comprehensive integration (e.g., in terms of labour and migration) was immediately ruled out. Neoliberalism, the fantasy of the self-regulating market that economist Karl Polanyi warned about 40 years earlier, was on the rise. Based on that belief, allowing the free passage of all goods through international borders and boosting trade and thereby economic prosperity was the perfect way to generate value for society. There were warnings regarding the blind spots that threatened to undermine such aims (e.g., José Angel Conchello on one side of the political spectrum and the EZLN on the other). Nonetheless, governments at the time decided to ignore such warnings. The consequences for Mexico have been devastating.
Not a day goes by in which Mexicans are not exposed to gross human rights violations. Thousands of mothers have dug the earth with their bare hands in search of their children’s remains. They are not looking for the culprits and yet, they are regularly threatened and some even murdered. Fifteen such cases have been documented, including 5 of them in 2022. Over the past few decades, the country has broken down to such degree that crime has become a principal occurrence in the country. The rationale behind these horrors continues to escape us. We have certain figures (more than 109,000missing persons) and certain stories (for example, the justification given by President Felipe Calderon to the militarization of public security because the government must fight organized crime), but what we know about the violence in Mexico is only the tip of the iceberg of a very complex phenomenon that is continually getting worse.
It is time for international justice institutions to intervene. We do not need more documentation, theories, or interpretative accounts of what is happening in the country. As long as judicial proceedings are not properly carried out, we will remain in the dark. Between 94 and 96 percent of the serious crimes committed in Mexico go unpunished, while impunity for enforced disappearance cases is above 99 percent.Continue reading