In 2019, TOJIL achieved an emblematic precedent in which a federal constitutional judge recognized the organization as a victim of corruption-related crime within a criminal proceeding related to the former governor of the state of Veracruz Javier Duarte. In summary, this ruling determined that civil society organizations can represent an effective counterweight to achieve justice in corruption-related cases that collectively affect us all.
As governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte was accused of diverting more than 3,616 million Mexican pesos intended for public services. These facts became known through various journalistic investigations. Faced with the wave of accusations, Duarte fled to Guatemala in 2016. The following year, he was detained and extradited to Mexico and processed for money laundering and organized crime.
The prosecutors in charge of the case modified the accusation from organized crime to criminal association, which merits a significantly lower imprisonment penalty. With this modification, Javier Duarte could «negotiate» a reduced sentence with the Prosecutor’s Office in exchange for accepting the new charges. Finally, Duarte was sentenced to just nine years of prison and a fine of 58,000 Mexican pesos without any measures to repair the social damage or clarify the facts in a public trial.
Considering the above and Duarte’s public statements, it is evident that this agreement constituted a new act of corruption between the former governor and the prosecutors. The reduced sentence was illegally obtained to evade a public oral trial and a significantly higher penalty. Due to the above, in October 2018, TOJIL filed a criminal complaint against them upon warning that the prosecutors may have committed bribery by illegally offering Duarte the benefit of a plea bargain. In addition, TOJIL requested the Prosecutor’s Office to recognize the organization as a victim of this corruption-related crime.
The Prosecutor’s Office denied the organization the status of victim. Consequently, TOJIL undertook a legal battle in federal courts that generated a relevant precedent for the anti-corruption fight in our country. In a historic decision, a District Judge recognized a civil society organization as a victim of collective damages for the first time in Mexico. However, a Collegiate Circuit Court overturned this transcendent precedent in a divided decision.
TOJIL believes that the Mexican authorities’ refusal to recognize our status as victims of a corruption-related crime violated various human rights recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, for example, our right to defend human rights. Therefore, in July 2020, we filed an initial petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Initially, the IACHR determined not to process the case. Consequently, in January 2022, we filed a request to re-examine the initial petition. The case is currently in the admissibility process, which means the IACHR has transmitted our complaint to the Mexican State, and we are awaiting the admissibility decision. If favorable, this case could completely change the reality of the anti-corruption fight in Mexico and Latin America by allowing the participation of society in criminal proceedings of corruption-related crimes.