Saturday, December 2, 2023

Judge says consultation over prosecuting ex-presidents is unconstitutional

President López Obrador’s plan to ask citizens whether Mexico’s five most recent former presidents should face justice for crimes they may have committed while in office is unconstitutional, according to a Supreme Court judge.

López Obrador sent a request to the Senate last week to approve a national consultation that would ask citizens whether Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto should be investigated and put before a court if there is sufficient evidence to do so.

In a submission published Thursday and to be discussed in the Supreme Court on October 1, Justice Luis María Aguilar argues that such a consultation is unconstitutional because it would subject the past presidents’ human rights to the will of the people.

He wrote that a consultation cannot ask citizens either expressly or implicitly about issues that “involve the restriction of human rights recognized in the constitution and in international treaties to which Mexico is party.”

A prohibition on such consultations is necessary because it ensures that Mexicans’ rights are protected, Aguilar said.

Holding a consultation in which citizens are asked whether the appropriate authorities should investigate, prosecute and punish past presidents for crimes they might have committed implies subjugating their human rights to the people when the government should be complying with its obligation to protect those rights, the justice wrote.

Aguilar also argued that a consultation could violate the past presidents’ right to the presumption of innocence.

In addition, he said that if a consultation found that a majority of citizens don’t want the ex-presidents to face justice, a miscarriage of justice could ensue if they had in fact committed crimes while in office.

Such a situation would constitute a betrayal of the constitution and the Mexican people, Aguilar said.

Responding to the justice’s views, López Obrador charged that Aguilar was making arguments already expressed by Calderón, who said last week that if the president has “well-founded proof” that he committed a crime in office he should present it to the Attorney General’s Office rather than hold a consultation.

The president also called on Supreme Court justices to act in accordance with the law and not allow themselves to be intimidated.

In addition, they should “take the sentiment of the people into account,” he said.

“They don’t need to read me article 35 of the Constitution, which establishes that human rights mustn’t be violated. I believe that there is no violation of rights and guarantees … because in the event prosecution takes place, the appropriate authority will have to [act] within the prevailing legal framework,” López Obrador said.

The president has previously indicated that he wouldn’t vote in favor of prosecuting his predecessors because he favors looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past.

Government critics argue that the plan to hold a consultation over prosecuting past presidents is, like the “presidential plane” raffle, a ploy to distract attention from more serious issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and the ailing economy.

Source: El Financiero (sp) 

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