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Mexico reforms its justice system

June 18, 2008 |  8:56 am

President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday signed long-awaited and potentially landmark judicial legislation that allows Mexico to have U.S.-style public trials and creates a presumption of innocence for the accused, reports the Associated Press.

Before the reform, one was deemed guilty until proven innocent. Here's how the L.A. Times' Hector Tobar reported on the proposed legislation back in March.

Under the constitutional amendments, guilt or innocence no longer will be decided behind closed doors by a judge relying on written evidence.

"Now we can offer citizens a more transparent judicial system that respects human rights and protects your rights with more speed and efficiency," Calderon said.

A plan for warrantless searches was dropped after human rights groups protested, according to the New York Times.

But Human Rights Watch still objects to certain elements of the judicial reform, which includes the ability to hold people suspected of participating in organized crime for up to 80 days without trial.

"This proposed 80-day limit for pre-charge detention would be, by far, the longest of its kind in any Western democracy," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division of the rights group, in a letter to Calderon.

"Detention without charge for such a long period of time violates the fundamental right to liberty and security of the person and the associated protections against arbitrary detention enshrined in international law. Even if exceptional, this 80-day limit is excessive."

Here's an L.A. Times editorial on the subject. In order to be implemented, the reforms require a constitutional amendment.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

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