Chamber of Deputies Votes to Recognize Jurisdiction of International Criminal Court in Mexico

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, December 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

Chamber of Deputies Votes to Recognize Jurisdiction of International Criminal Court in Mexico


In early December, the Chamber of Deputies voted overwhelmingly to modify the Constitution to ratify the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC). The court is based in the Dutch city of The Hague.

The constitutional changes, which the lower house approved by a vote of 347-12, with five abstentions, recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC in Mexico in certain criminal matters, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes of aggression.

The vote in the lower house came almost two years after the Senate voted conditionally to ratify the Rome Statute.

The measure still needs approval by at least 16 of Mexico's 31 state legislatures because it involves changes to the Constitution. Once this approval is received, Mexico would become the 98th country to ratify the Rome Statute.

Mexico, which in 2000 endorsed the creation of the ICC, was slow to ratify the Rome Statute because of concerns that the ICC could supersede the jurisdiction of the Mexican Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion, SCJN). This concern prompted the Senate to require that the Mexican president and a Senate majority first give their approval before any Mexican citizen is turned over to the ICC for trial.

The conditions the Senate had imposed had drawn criticism from international legal organizations. "We are pleased that the Mexican Senate ratified the Rome Statute," the Federation of International Leagues on Human Rights (FIDH) said in December 2002. "At the same time, we find it unacceptable that the Mexican president and the Senate would have discretion to determine whether international jurisdiction applies."

The conditions attached by the Senate, however, made the debate in the lower house less contentious, with the only opposition coming from the small Partido del Trabajo (PT). PT Deputy Amadeo Espinosa raised concerns that the involvement of the ICC could trample on the legal rights of Mexican citizens, who theoretically could be subject to double jeopardy. "No one can be judged twice for the same crime," said Espinosa.

The majority of members of the lower house downplayed these concerns. "This treaty is subject to the Vienna Convention, which states that the ICC can only intervene when the country's own legal protections cease to function," said Deputy Francisco Frias Castro of the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

"This decision to recognize the ICC safeguards all the human and individual rights that Mexicans currently enjoy," said Frias, who chairs the constitutional issues committee (Comite de Puntos Constitucionales). …

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