December 15, 2017
Today, Mexico’s House of Representatives approved the Internal Security Law, meaning that the President can proceed to publish the law in the Official Gazette.
In light of the imposition of this law and the end of the corresponding legislative debate, it is important to understand the following:
- The Internal Security Law approved today violates the Constitution and international treaties; threatens human rights; does not solve the country’s security problems; does not contain minimum controls over the extraordinary military deployment for which it provides; elevates to law a security strategy that has failed for the last ten years; and profoundly disrupts the balance of power between civilian and military authorities, giving unchecked power to the military in a country whose fragile institutions are put at risk by such a maneuver.
- The ruling PRI party and its allies in the PAN party ignored the numerous voices that both warned of the risks of this law and presented solid legal and technical arguments against it, including the well-founded criticism expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UN special rapporteurs, the deans of the most prestigious Mexican universities, international organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, legal and security specialists, victims of human rights violations, artists, and more than 250,000 people who sent letters protesting the law. Few laws in history have been met with such broad public and expert opposition; yet, Congress acted with haste and indifference. Various legislators expressed outright disdain for international human rights mechanisms, a discourse that evokes authoritarianism rather than democracy.
- Despite calls for dialogue from civil society, institutions, and even the President, no such dialogue took place. The discussion panels organized in the Senate were a simulation, not a real debate over the contents of the law. Faced with a decision of this transcendence, the response was to rush to confirm a decision that had already been made. The discussion simply did not take into account all voices and points of view.
- The Senate did not make substantive changes to the version of the law approved initially by the House of Representatives. Rather, the Senate made superficial corrections to nine articles and one transitory provision, leaving intact the most alarming aspects of the law. The concerns expressed over the course of the public debate surrounded the law were left unaddressed.
- The imposition of the Internal Security Law is not yet complete. The President could refuse to sign a law that has generated such unanimous opposition; this would seem the only congruent course of action, given that he himself called for dialogue. However, since this scenario is highly unlikely, there is an urgent need to active legal remedies to challenge the constitutionality of the law and its compatibility with international treaties. For example, the minorities in the houses of Congress could present constitutional challenges; the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), in line with its strong criticism of the law, could present another; and the city and state governments whose sovereignty is threatened by this law could also challenge its constitutionality. The activation of such mechanisms is indispensable so that Mexico’s Supreme Court can review the law. This would be especially relevant given that several Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s were cited as grounds for militarizing public security tasks in Mexico.
- Though the imposition of this legislation undermines the rule of law, the broad opposition to it demonstrates Mexican society’s growing consciousness of the need to change course in Mexico’s failed security model, such as by focusing on strengthening the country’s long-collapsed justice system. We have not seen such a wide-ranging public discussion of security policies since 2011, when the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity emerged. Neither have there been such expressions of alarm by international bodies over a human rights issue in Mexico since the enforced disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teacher training school in 2014. The crescendo of voices that have come together to demand Security Without War (#seguridadsinguerra) is, without doubt, a triumph for Mexican society, and gives us hope that we will overcome days as dark as this one.
- To the extent that the debate over the Internal Security Law has reminded us of the complexity of solving Mexico’s security problems, it will be especially important that candidates in the upcoming July 2018 elections take a clear stand regarding both the law and their own proposals for justice and security. In particular, it will be essential that José Antonio Meade, Ricardo Anaya, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as any other candidates for the presidency, inform the electorate whether, if elected, they will seek to repeal the law.
The approval of the Internal Security Law is a clear step towards authoritarianism in Mexico. More than ever before, we must not yield in the defense of our rights; we must show, with well-founded proposals such as those put forth by a range of actors in the course of this debate, that Security Without War is possible.