09/27/12 (written by lquezada, editing by mayaaw) – At the end of September, members of Mexico’s Senate met with several non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) who are calling on Congress to pass the Federal Criminal Code (Código de Procedimientos Penales) to unify and advance the implementation of the 2008 constitutional reforms. Despite President Calderón sending a proposal of the federal code to Congress last year, the Senate has nonetheless failed to pass it, and thus, according to the NGO’s involved in the debate, has delayed the progress states could be making in terms of unifying the country’s judiciary under the New Criminal Judicial System (Nueva Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). Most notably, reports indicate that the biggest problem lies in the fact that states using the new oral trials-based system cannot pass cases on to the Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) for review, given that the PGR does not yet have the new system implemented, an implementation that cannot begin until after the federal code is passed. So far, only 18 of Mexico’s 32 states and entities have passed their own criminal procedure code, 11 of which have advanced to actually implementing and conducting oral trials. All states have until 2016 to complete the transition to the new system.
The majority of political party leaders involved agree that the Senate’s delay in passing the federal version of the code needs to be addressed, and are open and committed to having this discussion. One of the major leaders behind the NGO’s meeting with members of the Senate recently is Mexico SOS President Alejandro Martí. Mexico SOS is a civil society organization Martí founded in 2008 after the kidnapping and murder of his son, an organization devoted to helping stop the violence in Mexico by focusing on the judicial reforms needed throughout the country that seek to decrease the level of impunity perpetrators of crime enjoy and increasing transparency and access to justice nationwide. Martí suggests a five-month deadline for the enactment of the new code, arguing that any further delay will only continue to undermine the purpose of the constitutional reforms in the first place, being to strengthen the judicial system. “We need the Code,” argued Martí, “because what we have today is truly an obstacle to justice, and we’re already four years behind.” Ana Laura Magaloni, an investigator for the Centro de Investigacíon y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), a higher education institution in Mexico City, believes that the senators should use both “imagination” and creativity in forming a new code so that the federal regulations for conducting oral trials will truly be a change from the old inquisitorial judicial system.
Many hope that new criminal procedure code and the larger constitutional reforms in general could serve as the much-needed antidote in addressing criminality and the lack of safety that currently exist in the country. The rising death toll resulting from the ongoing ‘war on drugs’ has pushed civil society to call on their elected leaders for what they believe is achievable change. The response from the politicians with whom the NGO representatives met concurred. Said Emilio Gamboa Patrón, the president of the Political Coordination Committee and general coordinator of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), the government “needs to continue with the advances in order to live in a peaceful and tranquil country of laws.”