Mexico City – Two Indian women raped by Mexican army soldiers in 2002 demanded that the military put their cases under civilian jurisdiction in compliance with a ruling by an Organization of American States tribunal.
"What we want is for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' sentence, which orders the Mexican government to clear up what happened and punish those responsible via the civilian (court system), to be upheld," Valentina Rosendo Cantu, one of the victims, told a press conference here.
Rosendo Cantu and Ines Fernandez Ortega - Me'phaa Indians from the southern state of Guerrero who, according to an IACHR ruling in August 2010, were raped in separate incidents by army soldiers - also demanded that the federal Attorney General's Office take up their cases.
Fernandez Ortega, who does not speak Spanish, said through an interpreter that almost 10 years after the crime "the government has not fulfilled its promise to ensure justice is served."
"What I want is for the bastards to be punished for what they did to us," the Indian woman said, adding that she is still waiting for financial compensation promised by the authorities.
"There's no sign of the government fulfilling its obligation. I don't want them to keep deceiving me," she said.
The women and human rights organizations say Mexican laws that give the military jurisdiction over alleged rights crimes by soldiers against civilians serve only to cover up disappearances, rape, torture and other serious offenses.
The Inter-American Court has repeatedly ordered Mexico to ensure that those crimes be tried in civilian courts as opposed to military tribunals and called on Congress and the president to make the necessary legal changes.
In a historic ruling, the Mexican Supreme Court on July 12 limited military jurisdiction in cases of rights abuses committed by soldiers, in obedience to a 2009 ruling by the Inter-American Court in connection with another case.
It also found that judges should ensure their sentences are consistent with international human rights treaties ratified by Mexico; previously, only some federal courts had taken the international legal obligations assumed by Mexico into account in their proceedings.
President Felipe Calderon submitted a bill last year that would require that soldiers indicted on charges of enforced disappearance, torture and rape be tried in civilian courts, although Congress has not yet put the measure to a vote.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said earlier this month the president's proposal "falls short of what is required by the Inter-American Court's rulings" because "other serious violations would continue to be investigated and prosecuted within the military justice system."
The bill "would also grant military authorities the power to determine which acts constitute such violations, despite the military's track record of downgrading the severity of charges against soldiers," the rights watchdog said.
In an earlier press release asserting the need for a military justice overhaul in Mexico, HRW said Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has "received nearly 5,000 allegations of human rights violations against the military since 2007, including killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and rape."
HRW also noted said military courts trying cases of rights abuses against civilians have a record of "near total impunity."
Calderon has deployed thousands of army soldiers in recent years to states plagued by drug-related violence, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives in Mexico since he took office.
The controversial crackdown has not succeeded in stanching the bloodshed and in the most violence-wracked city, Ciudad Juarez, the army was stripped of its law-enforcement role last year following numerous allegations of rights abuses.