A group of Mexican activists has lodged a war-crimes complaint against President Felipe Calderon at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A lawyer for the group of 23 activists who have signed the complaint of war crimes against the president said Calderon's offensive against drug cartels had involved about 470 cases of human rights violations by the army or police.

The activists accuse Calderon of systematically allowing troops to kill, kidnap and torture civilians.

The complaint filed Friday at the court in the Netherlands also names Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel leader.

Netzai Sandoval, the lawyer, said Mexican drug lords had also committed crimes against humanity during the conflict, which has cost 35,000 to 40,000 lives since late 2006.

"The violence in Mexico is bigger than the violence in Afghanistan, the violence in Mexico is bigger than in Colombia," Sandoval said.

"We want the prosecutor to tell us if war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Mexico, and if the president and other top officials are responsible."

Calderon's administration has denied the accusations, saying that it is an elected, democratic government fighting criminals and that it has established mechanisms to protect human rights.

"The established security policy in no way constitutes an international crime. On the contrary, all its actions are focused on stopping criminal organisations and protecting all citizens," the interior ministry said in a statement.

"Mexico, as never before, has implemented, in a systematic and growing way, a public policy to strengthen the rule of law and promote and respect human rights."

The ICC can try such cases in countries that are unable or unwilling to prosecute these crimes on their own.

The ICC will have to decide if the allegations qualify as crimes against humanity. This could take months or even years, according to legal experts.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies