Keynote: Justice José Ramón Cossío, January 30, 2015


Justice in Mexico and the University of San Diego School of Law invite you to a Keynote by:

Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Ramon Cossío Díaz

Judicial Reform and Human Rights in Mexico


Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz, a presiding member of Mexico’s Supreme Court, will be Justice in Mexico’s 2015 opening keynote speaker. Justice Cossío has written extensively on diverse topics including constitutional law, law and economics and moral theory, and has authored 21 books and has produced over 750 publications. At his public presentation at the University of San Diego, Justice Cossío will provide an overview of Mexico’s progress toward implementing this new criminal justice system and other issues related to the rule of law in Mexico. For those who care about achieving justice in Mexico, this is an event that should not be missed.


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Detention Without Charge now available!

150113_ARRAIGO_Cover(thumb)Justice in Mexico is pleased to announce the publication of Detention Without Charge, a special report provides a detailed assessment of the use of arraigo as a prosecutorial mechanism in Mexico, as national and international organizations have increasingly questioned the practice. Evidence collected for this report suggests that detention without charge is a poor substitute for due process protections that help to ensure the integrity and legitimacy of police and prosecutorial investigations. Arraigo, is a form of preventive detention that allows for imprisonment without formal charges for up to 80 days. This investigative tool is presently authorized under Article 16 of the Mexican Constitution as amended in the 2008 reforms that underpin Mexico’s ongoing transition to adversarial criminal justice.

Among the key findings of this report we find:

  • 3,166 arraigos were requested by prosecutors from December 2006 through December 2012, of which 2,939 were granted by judicial authority; thus, only 277 requests were denied. Overall, from 2007 to 2012 the percentage of arraigos denied by the judicial authority was just 7%, which indicates that once the prosecutor submitted its request to the judicial authority, 13 out of 14 suspects were detained under arraigo. Of those 13, at least seven were held for more than the initially granted 40-day period. Statements from Mexican authorities suggest that only 3.2% of all arraigos from 2011 to 2012 led to a conviction, meaning that the margin of error could be more than 95%.
  • Preventive and administrative detentions refer to detention without charge, and are contrary to basic human rights law and specific international conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights.
  • Because of the arbitrary nature of detention and prevalence of torture and other human rights violations under arraigo, it has received criticism and grabbed the international attention of numerous human rights organizations and bodies, from the United Nations to Amnesty International, and domestically from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission to the Mexican Commission of the Defense and Promotion for Human Rights, among many others.
  • Reports by the United Nations and other national and international organizations have found patterns of violations under arraigo, including denial of counsel, torture, and being held incommunicado.
  • The length and reasonableness of detention, access to counsel, judicial access, torture, and/or right to habeas corpus are all issues raised by human rights advocates and international organizations about the practice of arraigo.
  • Mexico is not the only country that applies a regime of preventive detention. Other countries, especially under the flag of “preventing terrorism,” have developed their own forms of detention with certain similarities, but evident differences from arraigo. Examples are the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Israel, among others.
  • The authors recommend that the use of arraigo be eliminated and prohibited by the constitution, or at a minimum that major modifications be made to provide some measure of protection of the fundamental rights of individuals detained without charge.

This is one of a series of special reports that have been published on a semi-annual basis by Justice in Mexico since 2010, each of which examines issues related to crime and violence, judicial sector reform, and human rights in Mexico. The report was formally released on January 12, 2015 and was made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Download the full report here.

Mexico remains in bottom half in Corruption Perceptions Index

Corruption Perceptions Index 2014. Photo: Transparency International.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2014. Photo: Transparency International.

12/28/14 – Transparency International released it annual Corruption Perceptions Index in early December, and once again Mexico finds itself in the bottom half of nations worldwide. Mexico ranks 103rd out of 175 total countries, with a score of 35 out of a possible 100.

Mexico’s score has remained relatively flat since 2006, when it scored 33. Its lowest score during that period came in 2010, when it received 31. However, Mexico’s world ranking has declined from 70th in 2006 to its current ranking of 103, due to other countries with similar scores at that time making substantial progress, while Mexico has remained relatively stagnant. All of the countries sharing Mexico’s ranking of 70th in 2006—Brazil, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Senegal—rank above Mexico in the 2014 index.

Mexico ranks in the middle of the pack relative to other Latin American countries. Venezuela ranks the lowest, with a score of 19 and ranking of 161st, while Costa Rica maintains the highest score (54) and ranking (47th). Seven countries in Latin America rank above Mexico, while one—Bolivia—maintains the same score. As Transparency International’s Mexico chapter, Transparencia Mexicana, points out, Mexico finds itself ranked below its principle competitors and trading partners in the region, 82 positions below Chile and 34 below Brazil. Along with Bolivia, Mexico ranks last among countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Transparencia Mexicana urges aggressive anticorruption reforms in order to “leave the position of stagnation in which it has remained for almost a decade.” In this spirit, the organization recommends five specific points of action:

  • The creation of a National Anticorruption System (Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción) bringing together the “nascent” National Transparency System (Sistema Nacional de Transparencia), and the National Investigative System (Sistema Nacional de Fiscalización, SNF);
  • Internal and external control and investigative authorities as well as “an authentic Federal Tribunal of Responsibilities (Tribunal Federal de Responsabilidades) for the three government branches;”
  • Establishing general legislation for “defining, regulating and sanctioning conflict of interest in the three [governmental] powers for state and municipal governments;”
  • Require all political candidates to make public three declarations: a statement of assets, tax statements for the previous five years and a declaration of potential conflicts of interest;
  • That the alliance for open parliament and government to which the Mexican congress signed in September result in “transverse and general practices,” and that Mexico must approve a national policy of open data.



“Índice de corrupción 2014: México el peor de la OCDE.” El Economista. December 2, 2014.

“México, sin avances significativos en el Índice de la Percepción de la Corrupción.” Transparency International. December 3, 2014.

“2014 Corruption Perceptions Index.” Transparency International. Accessed December 20, 2014.


Justice in Mexico presents book in Aguascalientes

upOn November 4, Justice in Mexico’s Coordinator presented the book “La reforma al sistema de justicia penal en México” in the campus of the Panamerican University (Universidad Panamericana, UP) in Aguascalientes. The presentation included one of the authors of such monograph Luis Raúl Gutiérrez Calderón, the Federal Collegiate Judge from Aguascalientes Dr. Silverio Rodríguez, Under Secretary of Government of the State of Aguascalientes Alejandro Bernal, and the Coordinator of Legislative Analysis of the State José Manuel Sánchez Testa.

The discussants shared with students and other attendees the relevance of the book as an effort to provide deeper analysis to some of the most important issues of the reform, but also as an opportunity for other law professionals to expand on such an other topics to foster further analysis.

This monograph contributes to the study of recent changes to the justice system in Mexico through an analysis of relevant constitutional provisions in the reform process, the state implementation processes, and its evaluation. It also provides examples of specific processes in some states as well as analysis of specific figures included in the Mexican legal framework. This volume is the third and last of the series of monographs on security and rule of law by the Justice in Mexico Project.

The book is available on Justice in Mexico’s website for free download.

Justice in Mexico receives $1.1 million for binational legal training program

Slide1SAN DIEGO, CA: On Friday, November 3, 2014, the University of San Diego (USD) and the Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México (UNAM) announced the launch of a new bi-national training program for law professors and students, thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

This program, the “Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS),” forms part of the Mérida Initiative, a multi-billion dollar effort by the U.S. government to cooperate with Mexico in combating crime and violence, promoting judicial reform, improving border security, and strengthening civil society.

The OASIS program will be coordinated by Justice in Mexico, which is a long-standing rule of law initiative based at the University of San Diego. Justice in Mexico will be collaborating with the UNAM School of Law, which is Mexico’s largest higher education institution and one of the top five law schools in Latin America. The program is intended to provide trainings to advance the implementation of Mexico’s new criminal justice system. Its aim is to foster exchanges among U.S. and Mexican law professors and students in an effort to improve understanding and cooperation within the legal profession.

“USD has many strong ties to Mexico and an impressive track record of helping to strengthen the relationship between our two countries,” said Mary Lyons, president of the University of San Diego, who offered her praise for the new partnership. Because of its location just 22 miles from the border, the University of San Diego houses many respected programs that enable the campus to become an important part of social justice efforts in Mexico.

The OASIS program will assist in Mexico’s transition to a new oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice system. The program will include three 40-hour skill-building workshops for around 80 participants per workshop. This will help UNAM faculty and students develop knowledge and skills in the development of statements, presentation of evidence at trial, and other oral advocacy skills. UNAM Law Faculty Director María Leoba Castañeda Rivas noted the importance of a program such as this. “UNAM is deeply committed to promoting a culture of lawfulness in Mexico, and our faculty and students are constantly striving to find constructive and innovative solutions to the legal problems of contemporary society,” said Castañeda Rivas.

The workshop instructors will consist of recognized and experienced U.S. attorneys, judges, magistrates, and experts on the theory and practice of oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice systems. The trainings are planned for early 2015.

“Many people in the United States are not really aware of the fact that the Mexican legal system is undergoing a major transition,” said David Shirk, Justice in Mexico director and professor in the University of San Diego Department of Political Science and International Relations. “We are honored and excited to be working with Mexico’s largest and most important law school to help their faculty and students acquire skills they need to improve the administration of justice in Mexico.”

The University of San Diego will also partner with professors at Harvard and American University to organize study tours for a select group of UNAM participants, who will be given the opportunity to visit three major U.S. cities (San Diego, Boston, and Washington, D.C.) to learn more about legal education, institutions, and practices in the United States. The program will culminate in an international symposium convening leading legal scholars and experts. The symposium will examine the nature and merits of oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice systems, the course of Mexico’s progress toward judicial reform implementation, and the role of law schools in providing necessary technical training and support.