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Mexico president to order release of federal prisoners

July 29, 2021

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants tortured prisoners and certain elderly inmates to be released. The decree would also impact some long-term prisoners who have not yet been sentenced for their crimes.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Mexico's president wants to take a different approach to torture after human rights criticismImage: Luis Barron/Eyepix Group/picture alliance

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday that he will soon sign a decree to release thousands of federal prisoners under certain conditions.

Which prisoners will be freed under the order?

The order would apply to federal prisoners who were victims of torture. These individuals would be released by September 15.

"We do not want torture, no one deserves to be tortured, no one," Lopez Obrador said about the move. "We cannot continue with these medieval practices, completely contrary to the most basic human rights."

The decree would also liberate prisoners aged 75 and older who have not committed serious crimes, along with inmates over 65 with chronic illnesses who have not committed grave offenses.

Last but not least, the order will free long-term prisoners who have not yet been sentenced for non-serious offenses. Non-sentenced prisoners who have been behind bars for more than 10 years will be released as part of the decree.

"It is important to take into account that there are many detainees, inmates who do not have a sentence, and that it is not only federal jurisdiction, it is also common jurisdiction," the Mexican leader said.

Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said there are about 12,358 federal prisoners who have not yet been sentenced.

The order will be signed next week. 

Drug wars: Mothers searching for their sons

Lopez Obrador taking different approach on torture, drug policy

The Mexican government under Lopez Obrador has promised to eradicate the torture of prisoners, after harsh criticism from the UN and human rights organizations.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have described systemic torture in Mexican prisons to obtain confessions from suspected criminals. 

Beatings, sexual and psychological abuse and other methods have reportedly been used on prisoners. The techniques have been used by the government in its war against drugs.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December 2018, has implemented a softer criminal justice and drug policy than his predecessors, Enrique Pena Nieto and Felipe Calderon.

Instead of a harsh crackdown, Lopez Obrador prefers a policy known as "hugs, not gunshots" which aims to tackle the root causes of drug violence, such as poverty.

Lopez Obrador has also floated the controversial idea of providing amnesty for drug traffickers.

wd/aw (Reuters, AFP)