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Despite Justice Reform, Mexican Courts Continue to Restrict Public Access to Proceedings

Sergio Sarmiento - Reforma
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August 12, 2017
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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto holds a gavel just after it was used to inaugurate Mexico’s new justice system in Mexico City, at the stroke of midnight on Saturday, June 18, 2016 (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)

One of the arguments politicians gave us for changing the old inquisitorial judicial system to an adversarial system is that it would result in more transparency. In the new system, hearings would be public. We would thus have judges like we see in American of French movies. In Mexico, the "publicity principle" would be applied to courts, a true transparency.

MV Note: The Mexican Constitution was amended in 2008 to change the trial system from an inquisitorial one - in which prosecution and defense submitted evidentiary documents to a judge who decided, in private, on the accused's guilt or innocence - to an adversarial system of public, oral trials in which the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and in which prosecution and defense present their respective arguments verbally and witnesses testify. There are no juries. Judges continue to decide cases. By law the adversarial system was to be implemented by June 2016. While the government has officially declared it to be in place, in fact it is only partially functioning in many states and the federal system.

Once again, they deceived us. The problems and costs of transitioning to the new system have been enormous. The change has coincided with an increase in crime, which has made some blame the new system for this trend. But a benefit as simple as increased transparency of judges simply has not manifested.

Samuel González Ruiz, former head of the Specialized Unit in Organized Crime, explains that Mexicans want to know what happened in the July 22 hearing of Javier Duarte [former governor of Veracruz, arrested in Guatemala and recently extradited to Mexico] for organized crime and money laundering. We have to rely on the work and legal knowledge of the reporters present. The public does not have access to the records and recordings of the hearing.

The fifth article from the new National Code of Penal Proceedings said that hearings would be public:

"journalists and media will be able to access the place where the hearing takes place for the cases and conditions determined by the court."

Article 55, however, said that "entrance can be prohibited" for anyone and added,

"Journalists or credentialed media should inform the court of their presence in order to place them in a suitable place for that purpose and must refrain from recording and transmitting by any means the hearing." Also, "they can not bring in instruments that are able to record video, sound or photos."

The [official] recordings of the hearing will be kept under guard by the court, while the records of the hearings can only be accessible to the parties involved. In other words, the hearings remain as closed as before.

Read the rest at Mexico Voices

Related: Mexico Justice System Needs to Improve Prosecutors and Police to Tackle Security Crisis, Not Blame New System (Animal Politico)

Related: Mexico’s Badly Needed Justice Reforms Are in Peril (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Related: Mexico Justice System: Preventative Prison Isn't the Solution to Increased Crime (Mexico Voices)

Translated by Rachel Alexander

Mexico Voices is a blogging endeavor aimed at raising the awareness of U.S. citizens regarding the destructive impact of the U.S. economic policy and the War on Drugs on Mexico - on its people, their economic and physical security and their human rights, on the nation’s dysfunctional justice system, and on the rule of law and Mexico’s fragile democracy. Visit the website at MexicoVoices.blogspot.mx


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