In the last three years, The Washington Post reports, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has received more than 2,000 complaints about abuses committed by soldiers waging the country's U.S.-backed war on drugs. But according to the Interior Ministry, only one of those cases has resulted in a conviction: A soldier who fired on civilians at a checkpoint, killing one of them, received a nine-month prison sentence.
The military says there have been 10 convictions, but it declines to provide details. The U.S. State Department puts the number of convictions at 12 and says another 52 soldiers are being investigated for homicide, torture, kidnapping, and extortion, which implies that 97 percent of the complaints proved groundless.
An April report from Human Rights Watch suggests otherwise, arguing that many credible complaints are being swept under the rug. The group documented "17 cases involving egregious crimes by soldiers against more than 70 victims," including "enforced disappearances, killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions." Although "a civilian investigation was conducted in one of the cases and led to the conviction of four soldiers," the report said, military investigations did not lead to a single conviction.
Human Rights Watch concluded that "by allowing the military to investigate itself through a system that lacks basic safeguards to ensure independence and impartiality, Mexico is, in practice, allowing military officers involved in law enforcement activities to commit egregious human rights violations with impunity."