Mexican Military Checkpoint Turns Deadly
Bonfilio Rubio Villegas’ Death Displays Need to Reform Mexico’s Militarized State
On June 20, 2009, Bonfilio Rubio Villegas, a young Nahua native from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, saw the bus he was riding to Mexico City pull up to a military checkpoint for a “routine inspection.” During it, Bonfilio was shot to death by members of the armed forces. Over a decade later, no one has been held accountable.
After years of fighting by Bonfilio’s family, the Mexican Supreme Court ordered military courts to hand the case back to a civilian court—a significant success. However, the civilian court absolved the only member of the armed forces prosecuted. No independent investigation was conducted, and the decision rested on findings made by military investigators and prosecutors, thus denying the family’s right to due process.
Why is this a key case?
As Mexico becomes an increasingly militarized state, military checkpoints grow more and more common. Bonfilio’s killing is representative of the use of force—sometimes deadly—by the Mexican military at such checkpoints. A landmark case decided in 2009 by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) found the state responsible for the detention and enforced disappearance of Rosendo Radilla Pacheco at a military checkpoint in the state of Guerrero. But inspections without judicial authorization continue.
Bonfilio’s case will allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to assess for the first time the legal nature of a restriction to the freedom of movement imposed by military checkpoints under the scope of the Inter-American human rights standards. It is anticipated that the IACHR will conclude that military checkpoints are incompatible with the obligation to respect human rights.
How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Bonfilio’s Case?
Together with Centro por los Derechos Humanos de La Montaña “Tlachinollan,” RFK Human Rights filed the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2017.
What is the Status of the Case?
The petition is currently under initial review by the IACHR.
Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)
Bonfilio Villegas et al. v. Mexico
Month/Year of filing
Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)
Articles 1.1 (obligation to respect rights), 2 (domestic legal effects), 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to a fair trial), 22 (freedom of movement and residence), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights
Initial study by IACHR