Torture, Mistreatment, and Forced Confessions in Mexico’s Accusatorial Criminal Justice System

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Rita E. Kuckertz


This article examines the impact of Mexico’s 2008 criminal justice reform on the practice of utilizing torture and mistreatment to extract criminal confessions. Complaint data submitted to the National Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de Derecho Humanos, CNDH) and detainee survey data compiled by the National Institute for Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI) were employed to assess if the use of torture and mistreatment by judicial sector operators had decreased (1) in states with advanced levels of reform implementation and (2) in judicial districts that had already implemented the reform. The author also examined the incidence of forced confessions before and after the reform’s implementation at the judicial district level. The author hypothesized that decreases in torture, mistreatment, and forced confessions would be observed in each of these cases. Basic correlation and regression tests were employed to assess the geographic hypothesis, while two chi-square tests for independence were used for judicial district data. The results of these analyses demonstrate evidence rejecting the null hypothesis in each instance, suggesting that the reform can indeed be credited for small but meaningful reductions in torture, mistreatment, and forced confessions in Mexico. The author argues that reforms must be accompanied by further action to address the pervasive use of torture and mistreatment in Mexico.

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