Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, June 25, 2018

Power of judges

Maybe it's about the power of judges. This is an opinion piece. Look for confirmation or contradictions to these ideas.

Opinion: The Tragedy That Changed Mexico Forever
The disappearance of 43 college students on the night of Sept. 26, 2014, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero marked a turning point for President Enrique Peña Nieto.

When he won the presidency in 2012, Mr. Peña Nieto was hailed as a modern reformer promising a more democratic and transparent government. But the disappearance of the students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the small city of Iguala shocked Mexico and the world, and plunged the Peña Nieto government into an ever-deepening murk of corruption and cover-ups…

A ruling by a federal court on June 4 against the attorney general’s office may mark a new era of independence for Mexico’s justice system. In a unanimous 712-page opinion, the judges concluded that the government’s investigation into the attack on the students was faulty and irregular, saying it was not “prompt, effective, impartial or independent.”

The three judges of the first Collegiate Tribunal of the 19th Circuit heard a constitutional appeal brought by the attorney general’s office over a lower-court ruling in favor of four men who said they were tortured by the authorities as part of the federal investigation… The ruling upheld the view that the four prisoners had been tortured and threw out their confessions.

But the court went much further. It condemned the federal government for having used torture as one of the components of a fabricated case, violating the victims’ rights to a fair and independent investigation…

The opinion was described by legal experts and other commentators as unprecedented, historic — and totally unexpected.

“The ruling confirms what international monitors have already shown: that the Ayotzinapa investigation was a travesty,” said Daniel Wilkinson of Human Rights Watch. “For a federal court to conclude that the country’s public prosecutor can’t be trusted to handle this case on its own is devastating.”

The judges relied heavily on the evidence assembled by the Inter-American Court’s Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, a panel of five legal and human rights experts from Latin America that Mr. Peña Nieto’s government, under international pressure, invited to help investigate the students’ fate…

In Mexico’s compromised mass media, a smear campaign was directed at the panel of experts, and the government refused to renew its mandate. The independent experts had to leave the country…

The government promptly declared its disagreement with the ruling. Some analysts suggested that the court had overreached. Everyone seemed focused on the most controversial element: Could the judges really order government investigators to take orders from a commission made of victims’ representatives?…

[by Francisco Goldman, a novelist and journalist, is the author, most recently, of “The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle.”]

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