WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
31 Jan 2014 | Video

Assessing the State of Judicial Reforms in Mexico


Miguel Sarre, Professor of Law Instituto Tecnológico Autónoma de México (ITAM)

Edgar Cortez, Coordinator, Citizen Security and Justice Program Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia

Moderated by:

Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate, Washington office on Latin America (WOLA)


Tuesday, February 4

9:30 a.m.—11:00 a.m.


The ability to investigate, prosecute, and sanction effectively those who commit crimes is essential for ensuring the rule of law, but it is estimated that fewer than 25 percent of crimes in Mexico are reported to authorities and that only two percent of those crimes result in a sentence. In 2008, the Mexican Congress passed a landmark reform to transform its justice system to an adversarial judicial model with the prosecution and defense presenting competing arguments and evidence in open court.

The deadline for the full implementation of the justice sector reform was set for 2016. But progress has been slow. Of Mexico’s 32 states (including the Federal District), only three states are fully operating under the new justice system, and nine additional states are only partially operational. Even more troubling, some states have passed counter-reforms that actually weaken human rights protections.

For over a decade, the United States has supported criminal justice reform in Mexico at the federal and state levels. Since the passing of the 2008 reforms, U.S. funds have supported Mexico in developing policies and legislation for reforms and provided for the training of federal and state justice sector personnel on topics including litigation, witness protection, and case development and management, among other areas.

Miguel Sarre, law professor at ITAM, served as Mexico’s first ombudsman in Aguascalientes State. Mr. Sarre is also a member of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Edgar Cortez, coordinator for the Citizen Security and Justice program at the Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia, is a member of the governing board (Junta de Gobierno) for the Mexican government’s Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Mr. Cortez also served for six years as the Executive Secretary for the National Network of Human Rights Organizations. Mr. Sarre and Mr. Cortez will provide an overview of the state of judicial reform in Mexico, detail the scope and limitations of the reforms, identify the key challenges in the reforms’ implementation, and present suggestions for how the United States can most effectively engage with Mexico in the area of judicial reform.