[JURIST] Mexico's lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], on Tuesday passed a bill [text; debate transcript, both in Spanish] on Tuesday authorizing a variety of judicial reforms [press release, in Spanish]. With a vote of 462-6 [tally, in Spanish], legislators overwhelmingly approved a bill which provides for public and oral trials, guarantees the presumption of innocence and allows for the use of recorded telephone conversations as evidence with consent. While the original legislation included a provision which would have allowed police to search homes without a warrant if they believed there was imminent danger to a person or if a crime was being committed, the bill was adopted without this provision [press release, in Spanish]. The bill would also guarantee suspects representation by qualified public defenders instead of "advocates" who often do not have a law degree.
In March 2007, Mexican President Felipe Calderon proposed changes [JURIST report] to the country's constitution [text] in an effort to reform its criminal justice system [press release]. Earlier that month, Amnesty International accused Mexico [JURIST news archive] in a report [text] of having a "gravely flawed" criminal justice system in which human rights abuses are perpetuated and criminals are rarely punished. The report cited evidence of arbitrary detentions, torture, fabrication of evidence and unfair trials and claims that the victims are often indigenous Mexicans, the poor, women and children. The judicial reform bill must still be approved by the Senate [official website] and then by at least 17 of Mexico's 31 states. AP has more.