The federal criminal offence of weapons trafficking; nature and category of this offence; penalties; proof required for charging, arresting and convicting someone of this offence; form of prosecution (type of trial, written or oral evidence); difference between transporting weapons and trading in them; difference between transporting weapons within Mexican territory and trafficking in them across the Mexican border (February-September 2004) [MEX42943.E]

According to various sources, the Federal Firearms and Explosives Act controls "the sale, possession, transport, import and export of firearms and explosives in Mexican territory" (IHRLI Aug. 2003; UN 7 July 2003; Mexico 23 Jan. 2004). The text of the updated and amended 23 January 2004 Federal Firearms and Explosives Act (in Spanish), along with other federal laws, can be found on the national government's Chamber of Deputies (Camara de Diputados) Website. Divided into four titles, 11 chapters and 91 articles, the Act is extensive and detailed, includes articles on the importation and exportation of weapons, and the transportation of weapons, and outlines a number of punishment (sanciones) options for various firearms and explosives offences (Mexico 23 Jan. 2004).

While the Research Directorate cannot provide legal analysis of the various pieces of legislation that could apply in possible scenarios, two documentary sources provided information about the potential penalties incurred for weapons trafficking in Mexico (US n.d.; IHRLI Aug. 2003). According to an information sheet on Mexican law and individual rights published on the Website of the American Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,

[c]arrying a non-military gun can result in a prison sentence of 6 months to 3 years. Possession of a military weapon is punishable with 4 to 12 years. Anyone convicted of clandestine introduction of a firearm can receive a sentence of five to thirty years (for a military weapon) or from 2 to 8 years (non-military). Bail is not available for those charged with clandestine introduction. Weapons considered for exclusive use of the military are any revolver with a caliber greater than .38 special (including a .357 magnum and .38 super or commando); any automatic rifle or pistol; and shotguns larger than 12-gauge. Please note that any person crossing into Mexico with an undeclared firearm may be charged with clandestine introduction (n.d.).

In its August 2003 report on national laws and measures for counter-terrorism and regulation of biology, the International Human Rights Law Institute stated that

[t]he [Federal Firearms and Explosives] Act prohibits the illegal importation into the national territory of weapons, ammunition, cartridges, explosives and controlled substances and imposes penalties of from 3 to 30 years' imprisonment. Additionally, the Federal Penal Code imposes penalties of between 3 months and 3 years' imprisonment or a fine equivalent to the forfeiture of 180 to 360 days' general minimum wage on any person who illegally carries, manufactures, imports or stockpiles instruments to be used solely for attack purposes.

Without providing details, the Mexican Law Committee reported that a 5 November 2003 amendment to the Firearms and Explosives Act has reportedly incorporated more severe penalties for weapons-related offences in order to dissuade people from owning and using firearms (Jan. 2004). Please also consult MEX32500.E of 14 September 1999 for background information about charges related to carrying illegal arms.

Specific information regarding proof required for charging, arresting and convicting someone of this offence and the form of prosecution (type of trial, written or oral evidence) was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, United States government sources provide summaries of penal procedures with respect to criminal cases in Mexico (US 2002, Sec. IV; ibid. n.d.). The Website of the American Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico states that weapons-related offences are federal crimes and federal police authorities handle all cases of this nature even if local or state police made the initial arrest (n.d.). Moreover, the World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems notes that trials in Mexico are "public judicial proceedings that depend mainly upon written evidence," although witnesses also provide oral testimony (2002, Sec. IV, 16). For a general overview of criminal procedures and police investigations in Mexico, please consult the Research Directorate's May 2004 Issue Paper Police: Mexico.

With regard to transporting weapons across the Mexican border, the United States Department of State noted that persons must obtain written permission in advance from Mexican authorities in order to legally transport weapons from the United States into Mexico (US 23 July 2004). The transporting of any unregistered weapon such as "a firearm, some kinds of knives or even a single round of ammunition is illegal, even if the firearm or ammunition is taken into Mexico unintentionally" (ibid.). Accordingly, imported weapons must clearly show the name and address of the importer marked on the exterior of the firearm (UN 7 July 2003).

Regarding the movement of weapons within the country, the National Defence Secretariat (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) reportedly manages the Federal Arms Registry (Registro Federal de Armas) that is ultimately responsible for controlling all weapons made and sold in Mexico (Mexico 2004; UN 7 July 2003). Correspondingly, all weapons produced in Mexico are marked at the moment of their fabrication (marcadas al momento de su fabricacion) and must be licensed by the Federal Arms Registry (ibid.; Mexico 2004). Additional information on the difference between transporting weapons within Mexican territory and trafficking them across the Mexican border could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

Information on the difference between transporting weapons and trading in them could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI). August 2003. DePaul University College of Law. National Laws and Measures for Counter-Terrorism and Regulation of Biology. "Mexico." http://www.law.depaul.edu/institutes_centers/ihrli/_downloads/publications/Mexico.pdf [Accessed 1 Sept. 2004]

Mexican Law Committee. January 2004. Mexico Legal Newsletter. Amendment to the Federal Fire Arms and Explosives Law ([Mexican Federal Official Gazetter] FOG of November 5, 2003)." http://www.abanet.org/intlaw/divisions/comparative/mexico/ABANEWS201.pdf [Accessed 1 Sept. 2004]

Mexico. 23 January 2004. Camara de Diputados. Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos. http://www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo/txt/102.txt [Accessed 1 Sept. 2004]

Mexico. 2004. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA). Registro Federal de Armas de Fuego y Control de Explosivos. "Concesiones y Servicios." http://www.sedena.gob.mx/servicios/rfa/concesio.html [Accessed 8 Sept. 2004]

United Nations. 7 July 2003. Mision Permanente de Mexico ante las Naciones Unidas. "Intervencion del Embajador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser en el debate general de la reunion bienal de los estados para examinar la aplicaci├│n del programa de accion de las Naciones Unidas para Prevenir, Combatir y Eliminar el Trafico Ilicito de Armas Pequenas y Ligeras en Todos sus Aspectos." http://www.un.int/mexico/2003/interv_070703.htm [Accessed 2 Sept. 2004]

United States. 23 July 2004. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. "Consular Information Sheet: Mexico." http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/mexico.html [Accessed 1 Sept. 2004]

____. 2002. Department of Justice. "Mexico." World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/ascii/wfcjsmx.txt [Accessed 1 Sept. 2004]

____. n.d. American Consulate General, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. "Summary of Mexican Law and Individual Rights in Mexico." http://usembassy.state.gov/CiudadJuarez/wwwhaca1.html [Accessed 1 Sept. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted


A lawyer specializing in weapons law in Mexico could not provide the information requested within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet: Amnesty International, Country Reports 2003, Human Rights Watch, The Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT), smallarmssurvey.org.