10 March 2020
Over the last decades, Mexico has been affected by armed violence between the government and a number of cartels, as well as between such cartels.
In this context, our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal concluded back in 2019 that Mexico and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG, Jalisco Cartel New Generation) are parties to a non-international armed conflict (NIAC).
Further research conducted by the RULAC research team highlighted that the level of organization of the Sinaloa Cartel, as well as the intensity of the armed violence between this cartel and both the Mexican armed forces and the CJNG – the two criteria to assess whether a situation of armed violence amounts to a NIAC under international humanitarian law (IHL) – allow classifying these two situations as NIACs.
‘This classification implies that IHL applies – in addition to international human rights law – and that war crimes can be committed by members of the Mexican armed forces and of the Sinaloa Cartel. For countries that are not involved in these conflicts, this classification notably triggers arms control treaty regimes’ underlines Professor Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.
In-depth research conducted into the armed violence between the Sinaloa Cartel and both the Mexican armed forces and the CJNG, and into the level of organization of the Sinaloa Cartel triggered this classification.
‘Classifying armed violence between cartels and Mexican armed forces can be challenging, especially with regard to information regarding the level of organization. Furthermore, while violence in Mexico is surely high, it is necessary to establish a nexus between episodes of violence and the conflict. Our research clearly showed that both the level of organization of the Sinaloa Cartel and the level of confrontations with the Mexican armed forces and the CJNG meet the IHL criteria’ underlines Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
‘Although criminal organizations pursue mainly economic objectives, this does not imply that they cannot be a party to a conflict under IHL. However, even if a drug cartel is a party to a NIAC, not all its members are members of an armed group with a continuous combat function, but only the members of its armed wing. While in practice this distinction might be challenging, not every drug dealer is a legitimate target, even if they belong to a cartel that is a party to a NIAC’ she explains.
The Mexico entry of our RULAC website provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of these two new NIACs, including information about parties to the conflict, its classification as a NIAC and applicable international law.
The RULAC database is unique in the world in that it legally classifies situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict – international or non-international – under international humanitarian law (IHL).
It currently monitors more than 37 armed conflicts involving at least 52 states, providing information on the parties to these conflicts, and applicable international law.
Co-published with the ICRC, they provide key guidance to States aiming to conduct investigations of IHL violations, but also to other bodies and individuals seeking a more detailed understanding of investigations in armed conflict.
Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis of this conflict, including information about parties, classification and applicable international law.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe
This online IHL Talk aims at shining light on substantial and/or procedural challenges to the effective and principled promotion of international law at the UN Security Council, including from a State’s perspective.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.
This project aims at compiling and analysing the practice and interpretation of selected international humanitarian law and human rights norms by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). It has a pragmatic double objective: first, to offer a comparative analysis of IHL and human rights norms from the perspective of ANSAs, and second, to inform strategies of humanitarian engagement with ANSAs, in particular the content of a possible ‘Model Code of Conduct’.
Via a new lecture series on disruptive military technologies, this project aims at staying abreast of the various military technology trends; promoting legal and policy debate on new military technologies; and furthering the understanding of the convergent effects of different technological trends shaping the digital battlefield of the future.