Center Prodh

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center

Experts call on institutions to overcome inertia and apply constitutional reforms

Organizations present results of monitoring of judicial resolutions; signal advances and challenges for justice system.

Mexico City, August 17, 2017. Calling for permanent monitoring of the justice system, organizations presented the report “From Paper to Practice: The Application of the Constitutional Reforms in the Justice System 2011-2016”, a first look at how judicial authorities have applied the reforms in human rights, criminal justice, and amparo constitutional challenges.

The study, financed by the European Union and coordinated by the Mexican Institute for Human Rights and Democracy (IMDHD), the Iberoamerican University (UIA), and the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Center Prodh), offers examples of good practices and warns of the institutional inertias and challenges that must be overcome for the reforms to take shape in reality.

Santiago Aguirre, Deputy Director of Center Prodh, signaled that the federal judicial branch has advanced in making its judgments available to the public, but that at the state level great challenges remain in this area; that the human rights reform is changing many authorities’ form of administering justice, but often without going beyond a superficial reference to international treaties; that courts rarely analyze cases in a context of structural inequality, even though they have the power to do so; and that with the new, adversarial criminal justice system (NSJP), there is better judicial control and less application of arguments that violate human rights, but that various violatory practices persist.

The experts who participated in the launch of the report agreed that there is institutional resistance that impedes implementation of the reforms in practice. Retired Supreme Court president Juan Silva Meza observed, “Respect for human rights is seen as an inconvenience; we need a change in beliefs, and willingness to listen and evolve.” Pedro Salazar, Director of the Institute for Juridical Investigations of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), warned that, “behind these challenges there is a cultural problem that we haven’t overcome,” and explained that joint efforts between civil society and academia will be key to moving forward.

Rocío Culebro, Director of the IMDHD, recalled that the reforms to Article 1 of the Constitution open the door to achieving the highest level of respect for human rights using Mexico’s own legal framework, but this change has not permeated most government institutions or public opinion. “Judicial authorities have a central role, as well as public defenders, who are called to defend vulnerable populations and can incentivize the application of correct standards,” she added.

David Fernández, Dean of the UIA, indicated that universities must teach law from a multidisciplinary and modern perspective as a tool of social change, mainstreaming human rights and educating against gender stereotypes.

The speakers also agreed that permanent training for all actors in the justice system is necessary. “We must continue to monitor the application of the reforms and assure that they are both implemented and protected from counter-reforms,” stated the Director of the IMDHD.

Aguirre explained that the report calls for a harmonic reading of the three constitutional reforms in the context of the upcoming transformation of the federal Attorney General’s Office, as well as for efforts to close the large gap between federal justice and state-level justice. He reiterated the need to advance in the full application of the reforms and avoid attempts to undo them, such as the current legislative proposal known as the Miscellaneous Criminal Justice bill.

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