Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Mexico is a world leader in unpunished crime. But that has nothing to do with inefficient police forces, a new report says. It's all about a dysfunctional judicial system, which is neither judicious nor systematic.

The University of the Americas in Puebla released a report yesterday that wants to change the conversation about impunity in Mexico. The fault is not with inadequate law enforcement, says the report, but with a dysfunctional judicial system.
    Making things worse, we’re told, is that authorities and the public approach the impunity problem based on “perceptions” rather than hard data, which the university’s Global Impunity Index helpfully provides.
    The new analysis gets big play at El Universal and in online news sites such as Animal PolĂ­tico, but elsewhere it’s toned down. 
    El U’s top headline reads like this: “Warning on impunity levels in Mexico.” The story postpones the indictment of the judicial system and leads with Mexico’s position on the index — the second-worst impunity record worldwide. (There is no way a daily will resist the spoon-fed hook of ranking Mexico against the world.)
    The abysmal ranking is exaggerated. The report is based on UN data that only 59 nations provided. But the standings aren’t what matters. The problem is impunity in Mexico, not impunity compared to the Philippines (the worst of the 59).
    The report places the blame squarely on the judicial system. There are only four Mexican judges per 100,000 people, compared to a worldwide average of 17. Bulgaria, with one of the best impunity ratings, has 57.
    There’s tautology at work here; the number of judges available was a criterion for the index, so of course the better-performing nations will have more judges.
    Still, it’s clear Mexico doesn’t have enough to get the job done. Each work day, a judge’s caseload is increased by two defendants, on average. They’ll never catch up.
    The hopelessness of the judicial system should be the focus of anti-impunity reform, the report concludes. Forget about more or better cops. Just hire enough judges.
    “The number of police per 100,000 inhabitants in Mexico is 355, and the world average is around 320,” Luis Ernesto Derbez, the former foreign relations secretary (under Vicente Fox) and current rector of the University of the Americas, told El Universal. “The conclusion is that we don’t need more police in this country.”
    Really? What if we subtracted from that 355 all officers who are on the take, poorly trained, narco-linked, uninterested in their duty or otherwise corrupt? Is there really no more work to do in cleaning up law enforcement to reduce impunity?
    No sane person will doubt that the judicial system needs an overhaul (although a lot of sane political leaders are not doing it). But if impunity is defined as unpunished crime, that can’t be the sole solution, could it?
    Maybe I’m one of those persons who Derbez criticizes for acting on perceptions. But one of the things I perceive is study after study, from reputable sources such as the National Statistics Institute, revealing that as much as 92% of crimes go unreported.
    That’s 92 percent of impunity right there, with the judicial system nowhere in sight. What’s more, most of the crimes reported don’t result in any arrest.
    I also perceive countless unpunished white collar crimes by public officials protected by their peers or by the immunity (fuero) they enjoy.
    And I perceive atrocities committed by organized crime that go unpunished because the perpetrators are more powerful militarily than the police or soldiers trying to catch them.
    None of which is to say that the judicial system shouldn’t be fixed. In fact, there’s a connection between its well-known dysfunction and the low crime-reporting rate; people assume the case will go nowhere anyway.
    The hell of the judicial system is a national disgrace. In fact, in a sense, both the report and the news coverage bury the lead. As an example of the system’s woes, the report mentions that almost half (46%) of those behind bars have not been sentenced. We also know that many have not been convicted and many not even charged.
    Impunity aside, that’s a human rights abuse of monstrous proportions.

No comments:

Post a Comment