Humanitarian Law at Wits’ End: Does the Violence Arising from the “War on Drugs” in Mexico Meet the International Criminal Court’s Non-International Armed Conflict Threshold?

  • Carrie A. ComerEmail author
  • Daniel M. Mburu
Part of the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law book series (YIHL, volume 18)


The determination of whether there is an actual non-international armed conflict (NIAC) in the context of the violence in Mexico among the drug cartels themselves and with Mexican governmental authorities is controversial. This paper reopens the debate as to whether the violence meets the Rome Statute’s NIAC threshold when assessed against the International Criminal Court (ICC) tripartite criteria of duration, organisation and intensity. It concludes that the violence generally regarded prima facie meets these criteria and that the ICC’s war crimes provisions would provide an opportunity for accountability for acts of criminality expressly proscribed by Article 8 of the Statute in relation to war crimes, but not expressly criminalised by Article 7 on crimes against humanity.


Mexico Armed conflict NIAC International humanitarian law Applicability of IHL Organised crime War on drugs Drug cartels 



The authors sincerely thank Prof. Dino Kritsiotis for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Any errors, however, remain entirely the authors’.


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Federation for Human RightsThe HagueThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Special Tribunal for LebanonThe HagueThe Netherlands

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