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

PIcture of Yasmin Afina, Guillem Puri Plana and Noa Schreuer News

The Geneva Academy Team Reaches the Semi-Finals of the 2018 Jean-Pictet Competition

10 April 2018

The Geneva Academy, represented by three LLM students – Yasmin Afina from Indonesia, Guillem Puri Plana from Spain and Noa Schreuer from Israel/Germany – reached the semi-finals of the prestigious 2018 Jean-Pictet Competition.

Read more

Coverpage of the 2016 Annual Report News

2016 Annual Report

12 June 2017

Our 2016 Annual Report is out! It provides an overview of our activities and achievements.

Read more

Sculpture realized to illustrate thre UDHR Event

Book Launch: Modes of Liability in International Criminal Law

29 October 2019, 18:30-20:00

On the occasion of the launch of Modes of Liability in International Criminal Law, based on research undertaken at the Geneva Academy, panelists will discuss questions related to criminal responsibility for international crimes.

Read more

A wide view of the UN Security Council Short Course

Sanctions in Public International Law

13 February - 13 March 2020

This short course provides an introduction to the regime of sanctions under international law and their effectiveness in addressing contemporary forms of conflict. It addresses the questions related to state responsibility, the pacific settlement of international disputes and the role of the International Court of Justice.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

6 March - 9 April 2020

This short course analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

doption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly, 2 April 2013 Project

The Arms Trade Treaty

Completed in January 2013

The Geneva Academy team followed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations and provided key information on the negotiations, notably via a daily blog.

Read more

Screenshot of the RULAC webpage Project

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC)

Started in May 2007

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.

Read more