Judicial Reform in Chihuahua and the Case of Ciudad Juárez
For several decades Ciudad Juárez, in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, has experienced an upsurge of violent crime against women. In October of 2004, Attorney General Patricia González Rodríguez was appointed to reform the judicial system in Chihuahua after the state government had been the target of national and international criticism for its inability to solve and prosecute the cases of the hundreds of women murdered since the early 1990s. In an off-the-record meeting on October 24, 2006, Attorney General González highlighted the progress that has been made in reforming Chihuahua's broken justice system, and the challenges that still remain.
González contended that the problem in Ciudad Juárez is not one of organized violence against women, but rather one rooted in domestic violence, and that 70% of the homicides against women come from violence in the home. She indicated that most victims have some kind of tie to their killers, often romantic, and that many of both the victims and aggressors are migrants from Mexico's southern provinces. Often after a crime takes place the killer will flee back to his state of origin, and due flaws in Mexico's information-sharing systems between states, is able to escape the law. The Attorney General pointed out that not all crimes against women in Ciudad Juárez are gender-related. Crimes often stem from other causes, such as drug and human trafficking that come as a result of the shared border with the United States. The degree of impunity in the state, however, allowed these crimes to multiply over time.
González acknowledged that Juárez did not have the investigation capabilities necessary to deal with the high level of crime, but the state government has now built a state-of-the-art facility for crime investigations. Thanks in part to this, they have been able to identify most of the perpetrators of the murders against women, although they are still trying to execute arrest warrants for some of the suspects in other parts of Mexico and in the United States.
González pointed to key judicial reforms that are in the process of becoming law and that she has recommended be replicated in other states so that they become truly national reforms. These reforms include a program that focuses on crime prevention that emphasizes the incorporation of different sectors of society, where a law of citizen security would work in conjunction with a new program initiated by the preventive municipal police force. This program has thus far received positive feedback from both police and the community. Also, in an attempt to replace entrenched and corrupt police officers in Ciudad Juárez with new talent, the new reforms include a requirement that investigative police to hold a university degree. In regards to national policing, González commented that the distinct Mexican police forces should be unified.
González also discussed the Center for Alternative Justice, another judicial reform, which allows victims to go through a simplified judicial process in order to solve their cases more efficiently and rapidly. González concluded that the current judicial system in Mexico is not functioning, and in order for it to do so there needs to be much more transparency in the investigation process. She emphasized the importance of the education and specialization of police, judges, and lawyers, and the right for all criminals to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, the victims have the right to be treated properly by the system, and to receive compensation and assistance in the time following a crime. She hopes to help pass a law for increased attention to and protection of the victim. The law would establish a fund for the immediate response from the state to the victims' needs that would include funding for medical, psychological, and psychiatric needs of the victim. Ideally there will also be a system of re-socializing the aggressor into society so that only the repeat offenders who are a danger to society be kept in prison. Finally, González asserted that while she has successfully created victim protection laws, she is still in the process of facilitating the overhaul of the basic structure of the judicial system in Chihuahua.