Lawmakers in Mexico’s lower-house Chamber of Deputies Feb. 26 removed a draconian measure from their plan to reform the country’s judicial system that would have given police the power to enter homes without first obtaining a warrant in emergencies and in cases of hot pursuit. Human rights groups had strongly opposed the measure, and the press labeled the proposed measure the “Gestapo law.” The last-minute change delays passage of the constitutional reform that is meant to speed up trials that can now last years and to better prepare the state to battle narcotics traffickers. “In this country, no one is satisfied with our justice system,” said César Camacho Quiroz, a legislator with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who opposed the expanded police powers.
The reform package now goes back to the Senate, which had approved the search provision. If both chambers agree on the package, a majority of Mexico’s 31 states must approve the changes before they take effect. The reforms proposed by President Felipe Calderón would replace the current system of secretive paper trials with one of oral arguments similar to those in the US judicial system, albeit without juries. Additionally, defendants would be presumed innocent, a new legal standard in Mexico. (NYT, Feb. 27)
See our last posts on Mexico and the narco crisis.