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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mexico Senate passes judicial reform bill
Katerina Ossenova at 5:40 PM ET

[JURIST] The Mexican Senate [official website] Thursday approved a bill [text, in Spanish] authorizing a variety of judicial reforms [press release, in Spanish] providing for public and oral trials, guaranteeing the presumption of innocence and allowing for the use of recorded telephone conversations as evidence with consent. While Mexico's lower house of Congress overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] the bill in February by a 462-6 vote, the Senate voted 71-25 [tally, PDF, in Spanish] in favor of the bill. The original legislation included a provision which would have allowed police to search homes without a warrant if they believed there was imminent danger to a person or if a crime was being committed, but the bill was adopted without this provision [press release, in Spanish]. The bill would also guarantee suspects representation by qualified public defenders instead of "advocates" who often do not have a law degree.

In March 2007, Mexican President Felipe Calderon proposed changes [JURIST report] to the country's constitution [text] in an effort to reform its criminal justice system [press release]. Earlier that month, Amnesty International accused Mexico [JURIST news archive] in a report [text] of having a "gravely flawed" criminal justice system in which human rights abuses are perpetuated and criminals are rarely punished. The report cited evidence of arbitrary detentions, torture, fabrication of evidence and unfair trials and said that the victims are often indigenous Mexicans, the poor, women and children. The judicial reform bill must still be approved by at least 16 of Mexico's 31 states and signed into law by the Mexican president. Bloomberg has more.

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