Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remilitarization and military justice

Professors Andrew G. Reiter (Mt. Holyoke) and Brett J. Kyle (University of Nebraska--Omaha) have a timely and important essay on the Jacobin website titled Latin America's Re-Militarization. They conclude:
To stem the tide of legal empowerment of the military and reverse these recent setbacks, human rights activists will need to be increasingly vigilant and work to supplant the security narrative that has dominated recent elections in countries such as Guatemala and Honduras, and led to the rise of populist leaders on the right. A wave of leftist politicians rose to power in the past by promising redistribution of wealth and anti-poverty plans — the policies necessary to address the underlying causes of the recent rise in crime. The recent election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, who ran on an “Abrazos, no balazos” (hugs, not gunfire) platform perhaps is a welcome sign.

Most importantly, this will be a major test for the civilian judiciary in the region. Judicial reform has been at the forefront of domestic NGO work and international donors over the past three decades. It will largely be for naught if civilian courts cannot retain jurisdiction over the worst human rights abuses committed by the armed forces.

Constitutional and supreme courts will have to rule on these laws, possibly being put in the position of having to make judgments that go against the wishes of politicians, the military, and even popular opinion. Success will also depend on the Inter-American Court continuing to be the last safeguard for democracy in the region, providing domestic courts with legal rulings to reinforce their positions.

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