Mexico Will Grant Amnesty To Those Convicted Of Minor Crimes Such As Abortion Or Petty Theft

Mexico approved a historic law on Monday that provides amnesty for some 6,000 convicted of minor crimes such as abortions, petty theft or drug possession with the aim of emptying prisons of people who broke the law in conditions of vulnerability.

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The Senate gave the green light with a large majority to one of the great projects of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who during the 2018 electoral campaign promised to implement an amnesty to pacify the country against the wave of violence.

Although the ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena) accelerated the approval of the law to decongest prisons in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first releases are expected to take several months.

In a bitter parliamentary session, marked by the masks and the security gap between senators, the opposition reproached the House for discussing amnesties and not economic measures to deal with the pandemic.

Human rights organizations welcomed the feeling of this measure, although they distrusted its scope given that the majority of prisoners for minor crimes are in state and not federal prisons, where the amnesty will be applied.

In Mexico, there are 19 high security federal prisons with about 17,000 inmates and 309 state prisons with some 176,000 incarcerated.

WHO WILL BE AMNESTED?

The approved text provides for amnesty for women incarcerated for homicide after having aborted, as well as health workers or family members who participated in the termination of the pregnancy with the mother’s consent.

Also to people who owned or trafficked drugs under poverty, a permanent disability or who were forced by organized crime groups.

In addition, it plans to pardon those people who, without sales purposes, have owned twice the permitted amount of narcotics.

Indigenous people who did not have interpreters or lawyers who knew their language and culture during the judicial process will be able to take amnesty.

Those persons prosecuted or convicted for the crime of simple robbery may also be granted amnesty if it were without violence.

Likewise, the text provides for the release of those who committed a sedition to alter the institutional life of Mexico for political reasons, provided they did not commit terrorism.

A government commission will be responsible for requesting before the judge and the Prosecutor’s Office the release or withdrawal of the process against people who committed any of these crimes after a period of four months to study each case.

People who committed acts of violence, who were repeat offenders or who were convicted of serious crimes, such as murder, femincide, kidnapping, house robbery or theft of fuel, will not be amnestied.

DOUBTS ABOUT ITS SCOPE

The director of the organization Legal Assistance for Human Rights (AsiLEGAL), José Luis Gutiérrez, applauded this law, which he considered an “excellent initiative” for its content, although he doubted that it would achieve the scope set by the Government, which provides for the release 6,000 people.

“It is a law that does justice to all those victims of a justice system that did not recognize their contexts of vulnerability and that prioritized closure policies,” Gutiérrez explained in an interview with Efe.

He considered “very important” that the law include amnesty for those convicted of sedition, a crime that “is usually attributed to human rights activists and defenders,” and to indigenous people who did not have interpreters during the trial.

However, he ruled out that this initiative serves to decongest the prisons in the face of the pandemic, which has 8,261 infections and 686 deaths in the country, since the deadline established in the law to determine a release is four months, time in which the disease may already have slowed down.

He also underlined the fact that in federal prisons, where this amnesty will apply, there are no women convicted of abortion and almost no convicted of simple robbery.

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