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Mexico: President Signs Law Granting Amnesty to Criminals Incarcerated for Certain Crimes

(Apr. 24, 2020) On April 22, 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador signed into law a bill passed by Mexico’s Senate two days earlier granting amnesty to persons incarcerated 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 when the offender lived in poverty or was forced to commit the offense by organized crime.

The new law also provides amnesty for crimes committed by individuals belonging to indigenous communities who were convicted without being counseled by a qualified defender. Eligibility for amnesty will be limited to nonviolent first offenders.

The law provides for the creation of an Implementing Commission within 60 days of its enactment. The commission will receive applications for amnesty directly from convicted individuals, their representatives, their relatives, or human rights organizations, and will determine initial approval of applications, which will then be subject to final confirmation by a judge.

An original rationale for granting amnesty, as explained when the bill was first proposed, is that 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. 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. Moreover, the original bill states 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.

A further rationale for the bill during its consideration in the Senate was to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in the country’s prisons.

The Amnesty Bill, which was originally proposed by Mexico’s president in September 2019, was previously passed by Mexico’s House or Representatives in December 2019. During the debate on the bill, its supporters generally agreed with its rationale as explained by the Mexican president in his proposal. Opponents of the bill, however, indicated that it did not seem to properly address the rights of victims of the crimes subject to amnesty.

The Amnesty law was published in the Federal Official Gazette on April 22, 2020.