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Mexico: President Urges Approval of Amnesty Law Because of Coronavirus Infection Risk in Prisons

(Apr. 24, 2020) On April 15, 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged Mexico’s Senate to pass the Amnesty Law to prevent the massive spread of the coronavirus in the country’s 17 federal and 292 state penitentiaries. The purpose of the law is to provide early release for people who have been imprisoned for nonserious crimes and are at high risk of infection, such as older adults, persons with chronic diseases, and pregnant women.

The president also plans to use prerogatives such as granting pardon (indulto) and prerelease (preliberación) for the benefit of at least 6,200 prisoners.

Mexico’s House of Representatives (Cámara de Diputados) had already approved the Amnesty Law by a vote of 285 to 144, with 19 abstentions, thereby sending the law to the Senate for its approval. The law contemplates early release for those who have been prosecuted in federal courts for crimes against health, such as carrying drugs and abortion, and for other such less serious crimes as simple robbery committed without violence or firearms. It would also extend early release to political and indigenous prisoners who have not had a fair trial for lack of an interpreter. Other possible beneficiaries are political prisoners convicted of sedition, with the exception of terrorism.

The bill specifies that the possible beneficiaries of the amnesty would be required to meet three requirements: the convicted persons are first offenders; their offenses did not involve the deprivation of life, kidnapping, or “crimes against personal integrity” (such as injuring, torturing, raping, or killing someone); and no firearms were used in the commission of the crime.

Those who benefit from the law could not be arrested or prosecuted for the same crime in the future, and the Ministry of the Interior would coordinate actions to facilitate the offenders’ social reintegration in accordance with the applicable legislation.

If the law were approved and entered into force, the federal executive would be required to form a commission to coordinate the implementation of the law and monitor its application. To benefit from the law, the interested person would submit an application to the commission, which would then make a determination and submit its decision to the appropriate federal judge for his/her confirmation.

In addition, the federal executive, through the Ministry of the Interior, would be required to promote on the state level the promulgation of amnesty laws containing similar provisions to those in the federal amnesty law.