Monday, October 20, 2014

Mexican Supreme Court issues rulings on PEMEX reforms challenge, military court jurisdiction

Guadalajara -
In important back to back legal rulings today, Mexico's highest tribunal, the Supreme Judicial Court (SCJN), further defined the authority of military courts martial in one case, and in another ruled on a pending demand that energy reforms approved by the nation in December 2013 and which took effect Aug. 12 must be subjected to a special citizen referendum in June 2015.

Such an energy plebiscite could, in theory, result in the nullification of historic hydrocarbon law amendments which opened the former state energy monopoly PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos) to private capital investment and foreign technical assistance for the first time since it was created in March 1938.

The court did not rule today on the merits of the case, which is the brainchild of the ultra left National Regeneration Movement, a political party founded in September 2012 by former two time presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador. MORENA opens campaign to repeal PEMEX reforms. But it officially accepted the matter for review.

A group of leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) senators lost a previous battle before the high court on Mar. 27, in which they also demanded a PEMEX reforms repeal vote next year. A majority of tribunal ministers voted against them, largely on procedural grounds, but left the door ajar to a further legal challenge. At the heart of the dispute are the procedures aggrieved citizens must follow when demanding a consulta popular, or national referendum, on important legislation, and whether there are constitutional limitations to such referendums. Mexican high court tosses leftist lawsuit challenging PEMEX reforms.

The SCJN had little option other than to accept the contentious energy case for consideration, which officially was transmitted to it by Mexico's Senate. As of Sept. 4 the National Electoral Institute (INE) had received over four million citizen signatures demanding a PEMEX recall vote in 2015. Those signatures were verified and then referred to the Senate, which in turn sought Supreme Court review.

In the court martial case, the court addressed once again possible exceptions to military jurisdiction when service personnel are charged with diverse criminal offenses.

In August 2012, the SCJN ordered that a military officer accused of covering up the murder of a civilian must be tried in a regular criminal court rather than by a court martial. That ruling was in accord with a July 2011 SCJN decision, which held that human rights cases involving members of the armed forces should be litigated before civilian authorities (Military court martial convicts 14 in 2007 murder of Sinaloa civilians). The purpose of both decisions was to eliminate arguable bias in favor of accused servicemen when tried by command staff. Mexican Supreme Court strips military tribunals of jurisdiction in offenses against civilian victims.

But the original premise of the rulings had expanded, with some judges arguing that in any case where an enlisted serviceman is not accused of direct disobedience of military law or discipline, the prosecution should automatically be referred to an ordinary criminal court, even in the absence of a civilian victim. By a vote of six to four, the full SCJN chamber rejected that contention today. The litigant was a Mexican soldier who was convicted by a court martial for allowing drugs to pass a military check point at a U.S. border station. His attorneys had argued that his prosecution for federal health law violations - the basis for all narcotics trafficking offenses in Mexico - was a common crime which had nothing to do with military discipline or the rules of war. Their claim that he should have been tried in a regular court failed to convince a majority of the 10 judicial ministers.

Oct. 30 - Mexico's Supreme Court rejects call for repeal vote on PEMEX energy reforms
Aug. 30 - "It's too late to undo the PEMEX reforms"
Aug. 13 - 20 billion barrels of crude: PEMEX legislation reserves for nation 83% of petrol resources

Feb. 17 - Mexicans have greater confidence in their military forces than any other public institution

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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