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Latino Daily News

Tuesday October 19, 2010

UN Visit to Mexico Concludes: “Strong Justice System is Needed”

A strong and independent justice is a prerequisite for effectively fighting growing violence in Mexico, a United Nations human rights expert, who wrapped up a 15-day mission to the country last week, said today.

Gabriela Knaul, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, noted that the 2008 constitutional reform of the criminal justice system could prove to be major step forward in improving access to and the administration of justice in Mexico.  The reform, the independent expert said, contains important elements guaranteeing the rights of all people coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

“However, it faces difficulties and obstacles in its implementation and does not appear to enjoy the determined, constant and uniform political will in the entire country in order to advance in an appropriate manner,” she noted.  “The reform of the penal system depends on the political leadership and needs strong support by the part of all institutions concerned.”

During her 1-15 October mission, Ms. Knaul analyzed the judiciary’s independence in Mexico, as well as the impartiality of magistrates, judges and lawyers. She also looked into the autonomy of public prosecutors.  She expressed concern over the level of independence of judges, especially at the federal level, emphasizing that the linking of high court magistrates with the Executive of their states is a “real hazard to their independence.”

The expert also found that many Mexicans – especially the poor, indigenous, rural, women and migrants – lack access to justice.

During her visit, Ms. Knaul met with President Felipe Calderón and other top officials, including the foreign minister, public security minister, Senate members, Attorney General, and Supreme Court magistrates.  She visited Mexico City and the states of Chiapas, Mexico, Nuevo Léon, San Luis Potosí and Yucatán.