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Feature 110215 Stevens

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mexican Army to use Body Cameras to fight Human Rights Abuse

By Elijah Stevens (InSight Crime)

Mexico's military is to introduce body cameras for soldiers as part of efforts to rebuild a human rights record tarnished by recent scandals, but experiences elsewhere suggest such measures alone will not be enough to end abuse and impunity.

Mexico's National Defense Secretary (SEDENA) has announced a plan to install 2,245 video cameras on the helmets of military personnel, reported Milenio. The initiative stems from recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in response to the Tlatlaya massacre in 2014, in which 22 people were allegedly executed by military officers.

The helmets will also be mounted with audio recorders, GPS devices and lamps, reported SDP Noticias. The objective of the initiative is to record "incidents and interactions" with civilians in the hopes of documenting and reducing human rights violations, according to Milenio.

The military began documenting various drug trafficking and organized crime operations with video cameras at the start of this year, but only commanding officers were provided with cameras. The new funding will markedly increase the number of cameras available.

In addition to the cameras, SEDENA will also provide human rights and use-of-force training to military personnel.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Mexican military has been under increasing pressure to improve its human rights record, with the scandal over the Tlatlaya massacre followed by the United States' decision to cut security aid over concerns the police and army continue to commit regular abuses. However, while the decision to implement body cameras for Mexico's military may serve as a step toward accountability, serious doubts remain as to whether the army is doing enough to change a culture dogged by abuse and impunity.

The initiative echoes various projects in Mexico and across Latin America that have attempted to reduce security abuses with recording equipment -- with mixed results.

See also: Mexico News and Profiles

Parts of Mexico have already experimented with body cameras, which are used by police officers in Tijuana, a border city notorious for police corruption. However, the program in Tijuana has been framed as an initiative to protect police rather than protect civilians from abuses and officers are able to turn the cameras on and off when they want and to erase the footage, Al Jazeera America reported.

Similar cameras have also been installed in police cars in Brazil, where police killings of civilians run rampant. In 2014, such cameras recorded the extrajudicial killing of a teenager, yet the recording equipment seems to have done little to reduce police killings, which continue to rise.

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This commentary, "Mexico Military Responds to Human Rights Scandals with Helmet Cameras," was first published in InSight Crime on Oct. 28, 2015 and reposted per a Creative Commons authorization.  InSight Crime's objective is to increase the level of research, analysis and investigation on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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