Header image for news printout

Mexico: Growing violence will only be overcome with a strong and independent justice system, warns UN expert

MEXICO (18 October 2010) – “The strengthening of the Rule of Law and an effective fight against violence will only be possible if the justice system in its entirety is strong and independent,” said Friday the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul*, at the end of a15-day fact-finding mission to Mexico, during which she met with President Felipe Calderón.

Ms Knaul noted that the 2008 constitutional reform of the criminal justice system could constitute a major step forward in improving the procurement, access to, and administration of justice in the country. “This reform contains important elements to guarantee the rights of all those who have contact with the criminal justice system,” said Ms Knaul.

“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.” For the Rapporteur, “the reform of the penal system depends on the political leadership and needs strong support by the part of all the institutions concerned.”

During her mission from 1 to 15 October, Ms Knaul analysed the level of independence of the Judiciary in Mexico, the independence and impartiality of magistrates, judges and lawyers, and the autonomy of the public prosecutors. The UN expert also focused on the level of public access to the justice system.

“There is a lack of access to justice for many Mexicans, especially those who live in poverty, the indigenous population, those who inhabit rural and remote areas, women, and migrants,” Ms Knaul said.

Furthermore, the Rapporteur expressed that, especially at the federal level, the independence of judges is in danger. “The linking of the magistrates of the High Courts of the States with the Executive of those States is a real hazard to their independence.”

“It is also necessary to strengthen and enhance the qualifications of the legal profession,” Ms Knaul pointed out. “Compulsory licensing, as well as uniform regulatory criteria for the exercise of the profession, are necessary in order to guarantee access to professional, qualified legal representation.”

The Rapporteur also underlined that “military justice in Mexico should be reformed so as not to be competent to hear cases of human rights violations or cases wherein the victims are civilians”.

The Special Rapporteur visited Mexico City and the States of Chiapas, Mexico, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí and Yucatán. She met with H.E. the President of the Republic and high-ranking civil servants, including the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of Public Security, members of Senate, magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary, the Federal Judiciary Council, the Attorney General of the Republic, and the National and Human Rights Commission. In the States visited, she met with authorities of the Executive, magistrates of the Supreme Justice Tribunals and members of the States Human Rights Commissions. She held meetings with associations of magistrates and judges and bar associations, as well as with academics and international and non-governmental organizations.

The final conclusions and recommendations regarding this visit to Mexico will be presented in the Special Rapporteur’s next report to the Human Rights Council in June of 2011.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/SP/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10447&LangID=S

Gabriela Knaul (Brazil), designated Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers in August 2009, has more than 10 years of experience as a magistrate. Ms Knaul is an expert in criminal law, especially in aspects related to due process, promulgation and execution of sentences, as well as in the administration of justice systems. For more information about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/judiciary/index.htm

UNHCR Country Page – Mexico: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/MXIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ugo Cedrangolo (Tel: +41 22 917 9286 / email: ucedrangolo@ohchr.org).