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News Link • Mexico

Mexico court rules against military trials

•, Agencies

Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled to turn alleged human rights violations by the military over to civilian courts, dealing a blow to a military justice system accused of covering up cases of soldiers abusing, torturing and executing citizens during a six-year government offensive against drug cartels.

Thursday's ruling went against President Felipe Calderon, who has staunchly defended the military and whose government proposed moving some military cases to civilian courts, but not murders.

The court ruled to send the case of Jethro Ramses Sanchez, a 27-year-old car mechanic who authorities say was tortured and killed by soldiers at a military base last year, to a civilian court.

But in an eight-to-two decision, many justices used language indicating they are already headed in that direction.

"A soldier should never be judged by a military court when the victim is a civilian and their human rights have been violated," Justice Arturo Zaldivar said.

Complaints about mistreatment of civilians have skyrocketed since Calderon sent tens of thousands of soldiers and marines to battle drug cartels across Mexico starting in late 2006.

It must issue similar rulings in four other cases in order to establish a precedent that would be followed by courts across the country.

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