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Mexico: Bill Granting Amnesty for Certain Drug Crimes and Offenses Committed by Indigenous People Passed

(Dec. 26, 2019) On December 11, 2019, Mexico’s House of Representatives announced that it had passed a bill proposing to grant amnesty for the commission of certain crimes, provided that applicable requirements are met.

These crimes include the possession of narcotics in small quantities under a number of circumstances, such as cases in which the offender lived in poverty or was forced to commit the offense by organized crime.

The bill also proposes amnesty for crimes committed by individuals who belong to indigenous communities and were convicted without being counseled by a qualified defender. Eligibility for amnesty would be limited to nonviolent first offenders.

The bill provides for the creation of an Implementing Commission (IC) within 60 days of its enactment. The IC would be empowered to receive applications for amnesty directly from convicted individuals, their representatives, their relatives, or human rights organizations, and to determine initial approval of applications subject to final confirmation by a judge.

This proposal indicates that, according to official data, a significant number of incarcerated individuals have been convicted of crimes committed as a result of living in circumstances of vulnerability, such as extreme poverty, marginalization, low education levels, and living in indigenous communities.

Data indicates that, in a number of those cases, convicted individuals are first offenders who committed lesser criminal actions under threats by criminal organizations and thus do not represent a high risk to society if they are released. The proposal adds that these individuals could end up turning into criminals for life if they spend a long time in prisons in close contact with felons who belong to organized crime.

During the debate on the bill, supporters of the bill generally agreed with its rationale as explained by the Mexican president. Opponents of the bill indicated that it does not seem to properly address the rights of victims of the crimes subject to amnesty.

The Amnesty Bill, which was originally proposed by Mexico’s president in September 2019, passed in the House with a vote of 285 votes in favor and 144 against and has been sent to Mexico’s Senate for consideration.