Mexico’s fruitless search for justice: criminals unpunished, innocent rot in jail

 Relatives of the 43 students marching in Mexico City last month. Rights experts concluded that there had been a slow response in the case, possible torture of suspects and damage to key evidence. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Relatives of the 43 students marching in Mexico City last month. Rights experts concluded that there had been a slow response in the case, possible torture of suspects and damage to key evidence. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

By Ioan Grillo / New York Times

Sept. 26 will mark a year since one of the most heinous crimes in modern Mexico, when police officers and drug cartel hit men are believed to have abducted 43 students and killed another six students or passers-by in the town of Iguala.

There have been even bigger mass killings by cartels in the past, also involving the security forces who are supposed to be fighting them. But the Iguala attacks caused far more outrage because they targeted students, the police were on the front line, and they were close to the capital.

With the world watching, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto had the chance to prove it could deliver justice for the victims. But rather than becoming an exemplary case, the investigation has shown the deep flaws among Mexico’s police force and prosecutors. A report released on Sept. 6 by a group of experts concluded that there had been a slow response, possible torture of suspects, and damage to key evidence and crime scenes. The justice system itself was put on trial — and found guilty.

The vices detailed in the report are typical in Mexico. Torture is widespread. Corruption in the security forces is rife, as shown by the arrest of prison guards and intelligence agents accused of helping the kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo, escape prison through a tunnel with electric lights and air vents. And investigators are often simply incompetent, as shown in the daily mishandling of crime scenes.

The result is a double tragedy of horrendous crimes going unpunished while innocent people rot in jail. Many Mexicans have lost all faith in the justice system.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/opinion/mexicos-fruitless-hunt-for-justice.html

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