Justice: In debt with indigenous people

The Mexican government systematically abuses and discriminates against indigenous people
Justice: In debt with indigenous people
Rarámuris – Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
27/08/2018
09:09
Mexico City
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Being before a judge in a foreign country, not speaking their language, accused of some crime, would surely create a sense of defenselessness, as well as the possibility of abuse.

This is how thousands of people feel in Mexico even though this is their country. This is people whose mother tongue isn't Spanish but one of the 68 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico.

Their unfamiliarity with Spanish, the lack of assistance from translators, the lack of legal advisers and bilingual public defenders and with knowledge about indigenous culture, customs, and traditions, are “common” situations for the majority of indigenous people who have faced the authorities.

When these factors are present, besides arbitrary detentions, the end is predictable: the indigenous person will spend years in jail for a crime they didn't commit. If they are lucky enough, some civic organization will learn about their case and will intervene to re-open the case and demonstrate that their human rights were violated since the beginning of the trial and after a long period, they might be free.

According to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Communities, there are 6,698 indigenous prisoners in Mexico, although 5,213 indigenous prisoners were freed because there were mistakes during the legal proceedings from 2013 to 2018; the main mistake is the lack of interpreters so that those involved understand why they're being accused.

The problem is not a new one. The 2006 case, when three indigenous women, Teresa, Jacinta, and Alberta, were accused of selling drugs and kidnapping 6 agents from the now extinct Federal Investigation Agency, is now mentioned in secondary school textbooks. That year, contrary to how slow is justice in Mexico, the process against them was quick and they were formally sentenced to 20 years. Eleven years later, in 2017, the Mexican government offered them a public apology.

Mexican justice was an enormous debt to indigenous communities. Human rights and its defense its widely promoted and has permeated big cities, but it has to be spread in their communities, in their mother tongue.

Experts claim that racism and the systematic abuse against these communities is rooted in society. It's a problem that won't be eradicated easily, but it's the government's duty to respect to human rights. If the equal treatment doesn't start there, nothing will change for indigenous communities.
 

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