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January 27, 2017

ABA ROLI Promotes Citizen Participation in Local Mexican Justice Systems

Through its Project for Participation, Transparency, and Open Information (PATRIA) Program, initiated in 2015, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) facilitates dialogue and engagement between law enforcement agencies and communities in Mexico. To increase the flow of information to citizens about their rights and responsibilities, ABA ROLI works with in-country partners to familiarize the public with the justice system.

The General Director of the Mediation and Conciliation Centers from Estado de México, MT. Victor Manuel Navarrete Villa Real, is welcoming the participants, students from Instituto Concordia.

Since 2008, the Mexican justice sector has been transitioning from a mixed inquisitorial system to an accusatorial system, yet the public’s trust in the government’s ability to deliver justice remains weak. A lack of trust between institutions and the general public has eroded citizen participation in Mexico — both by individuals and groups.

By addressing the public’s lack of trust in justice sector institutions and promoting awareness about the new criminal justice system, ABA ROLI is supporting the justice sector to foster positive interactions with communities and educate citizens about their rights and responsibilities. To achieve this, ABA ROLI collaborates with local partners in Ecatepec and Toluca in the State of Mexico and in Morelia in the State of Michoacán, to help governmental leaders institutionalize a sustainable public awareness campaign called “the Road to Justice.”

The Road to Justice merges a traditional courthouse experience visits and state attorneys general open houses into a day-long community activity. These events consist of a discussion panel on citizen participation and the importance of engaging in processes that foster improved local justice systems; a guided tour of the courthouse and other justice institutions; and finally, a discussion about the new justice system.  

To help promote a culture of lawfulness, ABA ROLI is also training members of civil society organizations (CSOs) on existing state and federal freedom of information laws and pending amendments, and their implications on transparency.

Between October and December of 2016, ABA ROLI organized nine Road to Justice events for 92 citizens representing 26 CSOs. These CSOs work on an array of issues including education, community development and violence prevention. By involving community leaders and CSOs in addition to the general public, ABA ROLI hopes to promote ownership among these leaders of their respective roles in society to hold the justice sector and government accountable and transparent, ultimately improving governance.

During these events, the participants learned about the Mexican justice system and local justice processes, participated in discussion panels and toured the local courthouse and state attorney general’s office. They also participated in a guided tour of the Mediation and Conciliation Center in Ecatepec and Toluca and the Victim’s Care Center in Morelia. They concluded the day with a discussion on the gaps between theory and practice as a way to identify the issues that civil society should monitor through Mexico’s public platform which allows access to public information related to the justice system.

As a results of these interactive sessions and visits, participants are able to understand the current justice system, get all of their questions answered and more importantly to learn how they can be involved in processes that foster improved local justice systems. As a participant in the Road to Justice in Michoacan, Samantha Bravo Muñoz, from the Citizen Foundation for Integral Development of Michoacán (Fundación Ciudadana para el Desarrollo Integral de Michoacán), said, “It is an extremely enriching experience, really being able to see how the institutions work through guided visits but not simply just showing you the walls but how these institutions really work, is useful as a citizen to be able to become an observer and monitoring/following up on the necessary (steps) with these institutions.”

ABA ROLI’s PATRIA program is funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

To learn more about our work in Mexico, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]