Mexico: Report finds that mandatory pre-trial detention pressurises women into giving up right to a criminal trial
- New report by Fair Trials and DragonLab examines the rise in abbreviated procedures for dealing with criminal cases
- Mandatory pre-trial detention is a key reason why people choose to give up their right to a trial
- Women are disproportionately impacted by mandatory pre-trial detention in Mexico because of the types of crimes of which they are accused.
A new report by Fair Trials and DragonLab has found that the increased use of abbreviated procedures in Mexico mean that gender-related issues cannot be properly addressed in criminal justice proceedings.
Abbreviated procedures, where typically an accused person is given a reduced sentence in return for pleading guilty, are increasingly being used at a state and federal level in Mexico. This is part of a global trend away from trials, which was first identified in Fair Trials’ ground-breaking report, The Disappearing Trial. When people waive their right to a trial, human rights violations such as torture for obtaining information, a confession, punishment or discrimination, and the illegality of detention, including wrongful convictions, may be concealed.
The report analyses the implications of the use of the abbreviated procedure in cases involving women accused of federal crimes in Mexico. It sought to understand whether women are at a disadvantage when presented with the choice of accepting the abbreviated procedure or advancing to the trial stage. The research, conducted in cooperation with the Federal Institute of Public Defence and with the support of the Irish Embassy in México, found that the current regulation and implementation of the abbreviated procedure in Mexico significantly limits the ability to examine the use of abbreviated procedures from a gender perspective, or to understand the differentiated impacts they have on women.
The number of women who are accused of crimes in Mexico is much smaller than men, but the impact of prosecution is often more harmful. Many women are often coerced into criminal activity or accused of crimes because of their connections to men. Many accused women are in vulnerable situations and do not have the financial resources or family support to access justice or prepare a defence. In addition, the prosecution and punishment of women does not have a significant impact on reducing crime or dismantling criminal groups in Mexico. These gender-related issues need to be addressed by the Mexican authorities, but this is being hindered by the increased use of abbreviated proceedings where women waive their right to a trial in a coercive environment.
The reasons that women might be coerced into choosing an abbreviated procedure include:
Women are disproportionately impacted by mandatory pre-trial detention in Mexico because of the types of crimes of which they are accused. Choosing an abbreviated procedure can mean they are released. The report found that women did not choose an abbreviated procedure if it did not mean they were going to be released.
- Many accused women have a lack of family support and the emotional and economic impact of this makes them more likely to choose an abbreviated procedure.
- Increasingly high prison sentences in Mexico mean that women may be worried about receiving a long sentence if their case goes to court.
In some parts of the country, it can take up to two years to go to trial in the federal criminal justice system. Choosing an abbreviated procedure can bring proceedings to a close much more quickly.
The report includes recommendations for prosecutors, judges and other criminal justice actors to ensure that women are not being coerced into pleading guilty and to ensure that gender issues are addressed in Mexico’s criminal justice system.
Fair Trials highlighted the importance of ensuring that public defenders, prosecutors and judges and international human rights law and domestic due process standards to the abbreviated procedure.
Dragon Lab highlighted that gender matters cannot be adequately analyzed when women waive their right to a trial and the case ends with an abbreviated procedure.