* Due to technical difficulties, the publication of this article was delayed from its original postdate of April 18, 2013.
04/18/13 – The Judicial Branch of Mexico (Poder Judicial de la Federación, PJF) presented a protocol aimed at guiding Mexican judges on how to try cases involving indigenous peoples. The Protocol of Action for those Whom Deliver Justice in Cases Involving Rights of Indigenous Individuals, Communities, and Peoples (Protocolo de actuación para quienes imparten justicia en casos que involucren derechos de personas, comunidades y pueblos indígenas) was presented at the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN) by Justice President Juan Silva Meza on April 15. Silva Meza stated that it is the SCJN’s intention to comply and respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and though this protocol is a way to do so, yet it does not displace Mexican constitutional rules, nor intends to become a format for cases, rather a tool to help judges bring justice for indigenous peoples.
The Protocol on Indigenous Peoples establishes guidelines for any criminal case involving indigenous populations. This encompasses, among other things, ensuring the aid of suitable interpreters, more flexibility for presentation and analysis of evidence, admitting indigenous jurisdiction in the resolution of internal conflicts, protecting the land and natural resources of indigenous peoples, and ensuring that indigenous groups are consulted when taking any legal action that might affect them. The principles that shall always be observed, as set forth by the new protocol, are: non-discrimination; self-identification as a member of an indigenous population; the right to maintain, develop and control their own institutions; recognition of specific cultural traits; special protection to their territories and natural resources; and participation, consultation and consent to any action that affects them. It will be a supporting tool for the daily work of judges throughout the country that contains also SCJN decisions, cases of courts in other countries, and jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, all of which are to be applied.
Members of the PJF were joined at the presentation of the Protocol on Indigenous Peoples by experts in indigenous human rights, such as Jaime Anaya, the current U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Rodolfo Stevehagen, the former Special Rapporteur. Anaya praised the protocol through a video message saying that Mexico has established an important precedent in the world, and will serve as an example for the administration of justice in other countries. Stavenhagen stated that this protocol is an important step in the consolidation of a culture of human rights of indigenous peoples in Mexico.
The Protocol on Indigenous Peoples is the second of such documents by the PJF that offers guidelines to judges on how to proceed with cases involving special populations. The first protocol was presented in 2012 and dealt with minors. Silva Meza announced that the new protocol will be open for outside input and comments from indigenous peoples until the end of July.