INSIGHT CRIME — Mexico’s Zetas crime syndicate and the government forces tasked with fighting it are both likely guilty of crimes against humanity according to a new report that calls for the establishment of an international body to independently investigate atrocities and fight impunity in the country.
A legal analysis released June 7 by the Open Society Foundations argues that the violence perpetrated by the Zetas could fulfill the legal definition of crimes against humanity, as established by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. That is, that their use of murder, torture and disappearances in states such as Tamaulipas and Veracruz are “part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”
In their struggle for control, the Zetas terrorize civilian communities to drive out rival gangs and authorities. The report argues that these crimes are not random acts of drug-related violence but are in fact “systematic” and “widespread”.
The report also says that the Mexican government could be guilty of crimes against humanity as a result of its crackdown on organized crime. That campaign began in 2006 under then President Felipe Calderon and has resulted in a spike in killings and human rights abuses. Despite a high level of documented abuses by police and soldiers, security personnel are rarely prosecuted.
One set of data from the Defense Ministry cited by the report shows that between 2007 and 2013 only 29 military investigations for killings perpetrated by its members were undertaken, and none resulted convictions.
The report’s authors say that their objective isn’t to put President Peña Nieto in front of the ICC, but rather to shake Mexico out of its prosecutorial apathy and start punishing those responsible for such atrocities. That process could be supported, the report adds, by the creation in Mexico of something similar to the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG).