Mexico: Alberto Patishtán Case Reveals Justice System Crisis – Human Rights Activists

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The imminent liberation of Alberto Patishtán through a presidential pardon is nothing more than the reflection of the severe crisis of the justice system in Mexico, incapable of recognizing its failures, agreed activists and Héctor Patishtán, son of the bilingual teacher.

Lawyers, activists and Héctor Patishtán, son of the professor from Chiapas, displayed at a press conference feelings brought about by the presidential decision that, they pointed out, along with the Legislature “found fault” with the Judicial Power. This power, they accused, in spite of the clear violations of due process, decided to keep the 60-year sentence against the Tzotzil indigenous man, after being in jail for 13 years for a crime that he did not commit.

The last occasion on which a president resorted to a pardon to liberate victims of human rights violations was in 2002, when Vicente Fox freed -“for humanitarian reasons”- the militants of the Organization of Rural Ecologists of the Petatlán Mountains, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera. Both activists from Guerrero continued their processes through the Inter-American human rights system and, in 2010, achieved a sentence against the Mexican State.

Héctor Patishtán believes that Peña Nieto’s decision to pardon his father is no more than a correction by the State, since

“if 13 years ago they made a mistake, now they have to correct it, whether by knocking down the walls of the jail or with this (the pardon).”

After insisting that the liberation of Patishtán Gómez is a product of the efforts of organized civil society, Héctor Patishtán, who was five years old when his father was arrested, spoke of the feelings he had a few hours before his father may be set free:

“I am happy, but at the same time I am very sad to see how the judicial system is ineffective for solving problems in the country; to see how an indigenous man, when they know perfectly well that he is innocent, is left in jail to serve a sentence unto death.”

Héctor, who acknowledged that last September 13th he cried when a Collegiate Court approved the 60-year sentence for his father, believes that the condition of being a poor indigenous person was what condemned Alberto Patishtán, whom he considers a victim of a justice system that discriminates against indigenous peoples.

The young Tzotzil said that his father will be the one who, once free, will decide whether to seek compensation for the damage caused by the Mexican State for having taken away 13 years of his life. Nevertheless, he underlined that he is sure that Alberto will continue his work as an activist in favor of human rights,

“whether in our town, in El Bosque, Chiapas, or here in Mexico City, since as we all know abuses take place everywhere.”

Lawyers Leonel and Sandino Rivero admitted that the presidential pardon does not imply the recognition of Patishtán Gómez’s innocence, since

“the judicial resources for it in Mexico ran out; on two occasions these resources were presented, and on two occasions the Judicial Power refused to admit to the flaws.”

Sandino Rivero explained that, unlike other pardons, the freedom awarded to Patishtán

“recognizes that he was a victim of human rights violations.”

He also made it clear that for Patishtán’s innocence to be recognized and to demand reparation for damages, going to international courts will be necessary, a situation that the indigenous professor himself will have to decide upon once he is freed.

The lawyers clarified that since 2010 the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Center has made complaints before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hoping for the case’s admission into the regional system.

The representative from Amnesty International (AI), Daniel Zapico, observed that the liberation of Patishtán Gómez is

“a product of the failure of the Mexican judicial system.”

For that reason he called for a review of the Mexican justice system:

“Do we want justice that makes distinctions based on the socioeconomic situation of the people and that doesn’t provide any answers, because the killing that took place in 2000 is still unpunished and the families and the survivors have not had justice? Do we want a system that promotes these kinds of situations in which guilty people are invented and evidence is planted and manipulated? Or do we want a system that carries out appropriate investigations and serves to put an end to impunity and keeps innocent people from ending up serving many years in jail without any reason?” he asked.

At the event the possibility of Patishtán himself offering a press conference this Thursday, the 31st, was announced, once the presidential decision to liberate him is communicated to him. A march to the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City is also expected to celebrate the liberation of the indigenous Tzotzil man.

The Network of Civil Human Rights Organization, All Rights for Everyone (TDT Network) shared in a statement its worry that

“in Mexico the right to access to justice is characterized by a lot of discrimination, perpetrated above all against people with less resources and against those who belong to an indigenous community.”

After celebrating the imminent liberation of Patishtán, the TDT Network pointed out that

“with the pardon we confirm that in Mexico justice is the big thing missing in this and other processes,”

for which it reminded us that the Mexican State needs to address the pending issue of publicly recognizing the bilingual professor’s innocence.

By demanding the reparation of damages for Patishtán Gómez and his family, the TDT Network demanded

an “impartial investigation” of the illegal jail time that the activist suffered, so that those “guilty of the events can be identified and then prosecuted and convicted.”

Gabriela Patishtán Gómez confided that her father has been in Mexico City since the fourth of October, at the National Institute of Neurology, where he is being treated for a tumor in his head.

“He is excited, but also a little nervous waiting for his freedom to be settled,” she said.

Patishtán’s liberation will be settled one day after the reform of the Federal Criminal Code goes into effect, which gives the current President the ability to award a pardon to a person who has been sentenced, after going through all the national legal courts.

Last Tuesday, the members of Congress unanimously passed the addition of Article 97a to the Criminal Code, which states:

“On an exceptional basis, on its own or through a petition from the plenary session of one of the Houses of Congress, the Head of the Federal Executive Power will be able to award the pardon, for any crime on the federal or state level…, and after an opinion has been given by the agency implementing the punishment in which it is shown that the convicted person does not represent any danger to public peace of mind and security, expressing their reasons and grounds, when there are consistent indications of serious violations of the human rights of the convicted person.”

“The Federal Executive should verify that the convicted person has already exhausted all of the national legal resources”, points out the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF).

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