Mexican rights agency appeals against pre-trial detention


MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s governmental National Human Rights Commission took a rare stance against one of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reforms Monday by asking the Supreme Court to overturn his expansion of mandatory pre-trial detention for a host of charges.

The commission said the appeal seeks to block the measure approved in February, because it violates the Constitutional guarantees of due process and the presumption of innocence.

The commission noted the reforms take away judges’ discretion in applying measures like house arrest, electronic monitoring or bail, and requires they send people to prison before evidence against them is even examined.

López Obrador has been hostile to outside regulators like the commission, and he appointed a person widely perceived as a weak figure to preside over it. The commission has very rarely challenged the administration.

Mexico had been moving away from denying bail and provisional release except in the most serious cases, like homicide, until López Obrador took office in late 2018. López Obrador argued that corrupt politicians and gangs that stole fuel from government pipelines were quickly being released on bail, and pledged to end the practice.

López Obrador sponsored a bill that expanded mandatory pre-trial detention to more than a dozen crimes, including burglary, electoral crimes, freight theft and weapons possession.

The problem is that under Mexico’s antiquated legal system, trials can take years. Some suspects may wait longer in prison for their trial to conclude than they would have served if sentenced, and there is no compensation if someone is acquitted after spending years in jail.

Rights and civic groups in Mexico have also criticized the expansion of mandatory pre-trial detention.

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