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War crimes complaint against Mexican President filed at ICC

Mexican human rights lawyers have filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court, asking them to investigate Mexican President Felipe Calderon for war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the government’s long running war on drugs cartels.

The petition, signed by 20,000 people names both the Mexican President and Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. 

They signatories claim President Felipe Calderon’s offensive against drug cartels has involved about 470 cases of human rights violations by the army or police.

Netzai Sandoval, a Mexican human rights lawyer told reporters,

"We have known for five years that the Mexican army is committing sexual abuse, executing people, torturing people and kidnapping, and there have been no sanctions"

"The violence in Mexico is bigger than the violence in Afghanistan, and bigger than the violence in Colombia"

"We want the prosecutor to tell us if war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Mexico, and if the president and other top officials are responsible".

He went on to argue the government doesn't have the will to prosecute drug war crimes saying,

"The Mexican legal system does not specifically define these crimes, so there is no way to prosecute those who commit them. Moreover, there is no political will to investigate the widespread violence"

While most cases are referred by states or the UN Security Council, the ICC can also start investigations on their own on the basis of information received from individuals or organisations.

To date they have only occurred in Africa but examinations have begun Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras and Korea.

Richard Dicker, an international justice expert with Human Rights Watch said,

"There are a large number of boxes that the prosecutor would need to check off before he could actually open an investigation."

"It's possible ... but I think you want to be clear on what the challenges and obstacles are."

"The crimes would have to be widespread or systematic, carried out by a state or organization in attacks on a civilian population."

William Schabas, professor of international law at Middlesex University commented that,

"It's certainly very arguable"

"The prosecutor has been very focused on Africa. The pattern is he stays within the comfort zone of the United States. Going after Mexicans for the war on drugs falls outside that comfort zone."

Last month a report by Human Rights Watch found evidence that the Mexican police and military were involved in 170 cases of torture 24 killings and 39 disappearances in five Mexican states, as well as systematic torture.

The office of the ICC prosecutor acknowledged receiving the petition and said they would "make a decision in due course."

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