Mexico: Transfer of National Guard to Defence Ministry a setback to public security grounded in human rights

GENEVA (9 September 2022) – Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif today expressed concern at the decision by Mexico’s Congress to give control of the National Guard to the Ministry of National Defence.

On 9 September, the Senate approved a package of legislative reforms to transfer the operational, budgetary and administrative control of the National Guard, whose civilian nature is enshrined in the Constitution, to the Ministry of National Defence, which is run exclusively by military officers.

“The reforms effectively leave Mexico without a federal civilian police force, further cementing the already prominent role of the armed forces in public security in Mexico. Human rights mechanisms have clearly stated that armed forces should only intervene in public security temporarily, in exceptional circumstances, as a matter of last resort, and always under effective supervision by independent civilian bodies,” said Al-Nashif.

She recalled that whereas the militarization of law enforcement has been steadily increasing in Mexico since 2006, it has not resulted in a sustainable reduction in crime, but rather led to a rise in allegations of gross human rights violations by law enforcement and the armed forces.

“Law enforcement agencies should be subordinate to civilian authorities. It is worrying that the approved reforms do not include any provision to ensure civilian oversight of the Defence Ministry, which raises additional human rights concerns, including on accountability,” said Al-Nashif.

“I call on Mexican authorities to strengthen civilian oversight in the security sector in line with human rights standards,” she said.

The Acting High Commissioner noted that there was very limited public participation and debate before members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approved the transfer and expressed concern about other ongoing initiatives to deepen militarization of law enforcement even further, including a recent proposal to amend the Constitution to allow use of the armed forces in public security functions until 2028.