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  • Relatives of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa demanding answers to the government

    Relatives of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa demanding answers to the government | Photo: EFE

In the historic ruling, this is the first soldier to be convicted in a civilian court for the crime of forced disappearance.

A federal court sentenced a sub lieutenant to prison on Tuesday over his role in the forced disappearance of a civilian in a northern border state, marking a legal milestone in a country where authorities have faced heavy national and international criticism for lacking the political will to prosecute security forces.

The soldier, whose identity remains anonymous, has been convicted and sentenced to over 31 years in prison for kidnapping a civilian in May 2012 in the state of Nuevo Leon, according to the judicial ruling. The ruling also dismissed him from his military position and prohibits him from holding public positions for 15 years.

The victim, whose identity has also not been released, remains missing.

This latest sentence represents a major victory for human rights organizations, which have lobbied for years to end the impunity they claim security forces and state officials enjoy.

RELATED: Remembering Latin America's Disappeared

Since 2011, organizations have repeatedly and successfully appealed to the Supreme Court, demanding military staff be tried in civilian courts.

In the interim, Congress finally defined "forced disappearance," or kidnapping by members of state security forces, as a crime.

According to a recent U.N. report, the Mexican government has only registered six formal sentences against federal police officials over the crime of forced disappearance.

Since the militarization shift of the anti-drug policy implemented in 2006, federal security forces have been accused of systematic human rights abuses, especially forced disappearances.

RELATED: The Forced Disappearance of 43 Students in Mexico

The recent high profile cases of the massacre of Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico, where 22 alleged criminals died under mysterious circumstances, and the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, state of Guerrero, placed the Mexican government under greater pressure to find structural solutions.

In the case of Ayotzinapa, independent experts found on Monday that key evidence of the official investigation had been destroyed.

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