The Mexican Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Spanish] on Monday approved a bill that will recognize, protect and provide aid to victims of crimes stemming from the gang-related drug wars that have engulfed the country for nearly the last six years. Known as the General Victims Act [CNN Mexico backgrounder, in Spanish], the law was passed [AFP report] by Mexico's lower house of Congress as a means to compensate those persons adversely affected by fighting between gangs and security forces. The law will provide financial, legal and medical aid to those in need, and victims of criminal violence will be eligible for relief of up to 950,000 pesos (USD $73,000). The bill was passed [CNN Mexico report, in Spanish] by the Senate of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] last week in response to longstanding demand, as more than 47,500 people have died in Mexico over the last five-and-a-half years due to drug-related violence and thousands more have gone missing.
The effect of Mexico's drug wars on uninvolved citizens has received widespread attention from various human rights groups. In March, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [official website] found [JURIST report] a "chronic pattern of impunity demonstrated by the absence of effective investigations in cases of enforced disappearances" in Mexico, but also expressed appreciation for the Mexican government's openness to making positive constitutional changes to advance human rights. Last November, Mexican activists filed a complaint in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the alleged human rights violations [JURIST report] by the Mexican army and police resulting from the attack on drug cartels initiated by President Felipe Calderon [official website, in Spanish]. The activists also contended that drug lords have been likewise responsible for crimes against humanity since 2006. In response, the government stated that the ICC is the wrong means to "fight crime and impunity," and that the activists should first proceed with their claim through the national criminal justice system.