Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Mexican Supreme Court of Justice Ruling on Unconstitutionality of Domestic Security Law

November 26, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the ruling from the Plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico declaring the Domestic Security Law to be unconstitutional due to provisions that run counter to respect for human rights and guarantees around these.

In the ruling issued on November 15, 2018, 11 ministers from the Supreme Court of Justice declared the law to be unconstitutional as it contains provisions that seek to normalize the use of the armed forces in public security matters. This contradicts both the Mexican Constitution and international treaties. The court also ruled that the Congress of the Union is not authorized to legislate on domestic security matters.

Before the law was passed by the Office of the President in November 2017, it was called into question by a wide range of individuals and organizations including academics, local and international civil society organizations, the National Human Rights Commission, and international organizations, including United Nations special rapporteurs and committees and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

At the time, the IACHR expressed its concern over the draft bill. In The Human Rights Situation in Mexico, a report published in 2015, the IACHR observed that handing duties that should rightly be carried out by civilian police forces over to the armed forces has led to increased human rights violations and widespread impunity when members of the armed forces are involved in these violations. The same is true of joint operations carried out by the armed forces and federal and municipal security agents throughout the country.

The IACHR has repeated stressed that it is essential for there to be a clear separation between domestic security, which is the role of the police, and national defense, which is the role of the armed forces. It has underlined that the two bodies are fundamentally different, they were created for different purposes, and officers receive different types of training accordingly. During the design and implementation of a public security policy that respects the principles underlying the rule of law, there can be no overlooking the fundamental distinction between the role of the armed forces, which is limited to defending the country’s sovereignty, and that of the police force, which is exclusively responsible for public security.

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, rapporteur for Mexico, said: “I welcome the Mexican Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of the Domestic Security Law. It sets a vital legal precedent that lays the foundations for the new government to put forward a concrete plan for gradually withdrawing the armed forces from public security activities, as the IACHR recommended in its 2015 country report.” The ruling sets an example for the entire region, given that more and more states are leaning toward handing citizen security tasks over to their armed forces.

States are obliged to ensure that public security and crime policies prioritize institutional structures that respect human rights. These structures must guarantee the population’s ability to exercise its human rights in relation to the prevention and control of violence and crime, including organized crime. The state must therefore take all measures needed to strengthen the police force and guarantee an autonomous, independent system of justice.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 251/18