‘Innocent until proven guilty’ to underlie Mexican justice system

Sweeping overhauls to Mexico’s criminal trial system announced last week could bring the country into the modern world, according to the Financial Times. People suspected of crimes will be presumed innocent until proved guilty, according to the reforms backed by President Felipe Calderon.

‘For the first time – and assuming that a majority of the country’s 31 local legislatures approves the constitutional change – defendants will be presumed innocent until proved guilty. Trials will become open and more transparent, with judges and lawyers having to work in public and under the scrutiny of the media.’

amnesty.gifBut according to human rights groups, some of the elements of the reforms threaten to undermine human rights by allowing prosecutors to enforce house-arrest on suspects or to put suspects in jail before they’re charged.

Alberto Herrera, executive director of , said: “We want the judicial system to be efficient but this can mean permission to violate human rights.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, ‘71% of convicted defendants [in Mexico] said they never saw a judge before receiving their sentences. And about 47% of inmates in Mexico City’s prisons are serving sentences for robbery involving sums of less than $20.’

Lawyers will be allowed to make oral arguments to speed up trials, and authorities will be allowed to record private conversations to use as evidence – supposedly in for use in the Government’s fight against drug trafficking and organised crime.

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