International Humanitarian Law Applies to the Armed Confrontations between Mexico and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflict in Mexico. Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflict in Mexico.

12 February 2019

In Mexico, there has been armed violence between the government and a number of cartels, as well as between such cartels over the past decades.

In this context, our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal concludes that Mexico and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG, Jalisco Cartel New Generation) are parties to a non-international armed conflict (NIAC).

Classification as a NIAC Triggered by the Level of Armed Violence and the CJNG’s Degree of Organization

Two criteria are used to assess whether a situation of armed violence amounts to a NIAC under international humanitarian law (IHL): the level of armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity that goes beyond internal disturbances and tensions, and at least one side to the conflict must be a non-state armed group that exhibits a certain level of organization.

‘Regarding the armed confrontations between the Mexican armed forces and the CJNG, we considered that both criteria are met and that, therefore, the IHL of NIACs applies in addition to international human rights law’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘On the other hand, albeit other cartels have been engaging in armed confrontations both against each other and against the government, their armed groups do not meet the organisation requirement and thus are not parties to a non-international armed conflict in Mexico’ she adds.

Sharp Increase of Armed Violence with the CJNG

Over the past years, Mexico has pursued the so-called kingpin strategy, whereby it has arrested or killed the leaders of the major drug cartels operating in the country. While this has contributed to stopping the activities of a number of notorious members of the criminal organizations, it has also led to a fragmentation of the Mexican criminal landscape.

In this context, several relatively small and extremely violent cartels have emerged and have posed unprecedented challenges to the government with levels of violence increasing sharply and dramatically.

The CJNG is a clear example of a criminal organization that emerged as a result of the aforementioned kingpin strategy. It was created in 2010 following the death of the former Sinaloa Cartel leader Ignacio Coronel, alias ‘Nacho’, killed by the Mexican security forces. The power vacuum caused by Nacho’s death triggered an internal struggle that led to the creation of the CJNG.

In response to a sharp and dramatic increase of violence and armed confrontation between the government and the CJNG, the Mexican government passed in December 2017 the Internal Security Law, which authorises the army and navy personnel to be deployed in order to combat national security risks.

Non International Armed Conflict in Mexico Armed Violence

A Well-Organized Cartel that Meets the Organization Threshold

‘In spite of the paucity of information regarding the CJNG’s internal structure, several factors, including its capacity to purchase and manufacture weapons, to organize and carry out military operations, and its control of some parts of the Mexican territory, led us to conclude that the cartel meets the organization requirement’ explains Dr Redaelli.

Non International Armed Conflict in Mexico

About RULAC

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).

‘This is crucial because IHL applies only in armed conflicts. Before humanitarian players, civil servants or academics can invoke IHL or analyze whether IHL was violated, they must know whether it applies. Outside armed conflicts, only international human rights law applies’ underlines Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Central African Republic, Bangui. Soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo patrol the Multinational Force of Central African States - News

The Non-International Armed Conflicts in the Central African Republic Added to our RULAC Online Portal

15 October 2018

We have now added to our Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online portal a detailed analysis and legal classification of the non-international armed conflicts that take place in the Central African Republic since December 2012.

Read more

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in Colombia News

Colombia: Still Engulfed in a Series of Non-International Armed Conflicts despite the 2016 Peace Agreement

4 December 2018

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of the various non-international armed conflicts that are taking place in Colombia.

Read more

Photo of Helen Durham Current Issues in Armed Conflict Conference

Black Magic, Zombies and Dragons: a Tale of International Humanitarian Law in the 21st Century

17 June 2019, 17:45-20:00

To close the third edition of the Current Issues in Armed Conflict Conference, Helen Durham, Director of Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will deliver a keynote address.

Read more

2017 edition of the Advanced Seminar in IHL for Lecturers and Researchers Training

Advanced Seminar in IHL for Lecturers and Researchers

9-13 September 2019

Organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Geneva Academy,  this advanced seminar aims to enhance the capacity of lecturers and researchers to teach and research international humanitarian law contemporary issues, addressing both substantive and pedagogical aspects.

Read more

Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

Started in January 2017

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’.

Read more

Libya, Misrata, Tripoli Street. Combattants carefully move into a building. Project

Armed Non-State Actors and the Protection of Civilians

Completed in March 2010

This research project looked at the reactions to norms of more than 30 armed groups worldwide.

Read more