MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos

Mexico City, Mexico | 2015 Award Recipient

Protecting the rights of vulnerable people amidst justice reform in Mexico

As Mexico implements sweeping reform of its criminal justice system, Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos (ASILEGAL) is defending and promoting the rights of vulnerable people throughout the country.

Through field research and careful documentation, strategic litigation, and partnerships with justice agencies and other local and international organizations, ASILEGAL reveals human rights violations across the justice system – such as excessive pre-trial incarceration – and works to address them. Its extensive data collection and documentation has been essential in revealing systemic due process violations against vulnerable people, including indigenous groups, women, and the LGBT community.

ASILEGAL’s strategic litigation efforts have achieved justice for many treated unfairly by Mexico’s legal system. From 2011 to 2014, ASILEGAL’s work resulted in the release of seven indigenous individuals who had been incarcerated without trial for several years and whose cases involved due process violations such as fabrication of evidence and legal misrepresentation.

ASILEGAL is one of the few human rights organizations in Mexico to focus its efforts on women’s issues in the justice system. It collaborates with a wide range of local organizations and independent lawyers to provide support and representation to women who are victims or are accused of crimes, and to advocate for improvements in the treatment and legal representation of women who have been incarcerated.

As Mexico proceeds through this critical period of reform, ASILEGAL is working to ensure that the developing judicial system maintains human rights as a core underpinning and priority. Key to this effort is robust training for the country’s next generation of justice practitioners. ASILEGAL has become well known for the training it provides to lawyers, judges, court staff, and other system practitioners about human rights protections in the criminal justice system. The federal government has formally requested that ASILEGAL become a partner in training justice system operators as part of the country’s reform effort.

ASILEGAL will use its $350,000 MacArthur Award to purchase a permanent office, thus reducing its operating costs over the long term and increasing its ability to expand its programs.

Grantee Profile: Learn more about Human Rights Legal Assistance

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